As decarbonization of electricity generation and electrification of various sectors of the economy--the two arms of the "Energy Transition"--have the potential to reshape the U.S. electricity grid, it is important to understand the implications of such efforts for environmental outcomes and social welfare. In this talk, I will present research on the environmental benefits of rooftop solar capacity in the United States, the distribution of those benefits across households by race and income, and the efficiency and equity considerations of rooftop solar policy incentives. This will inform discussion about the role of electricity policy and incentives for distributed energy resources in reducing both total emissions and the pollution gap in the U.S. Then, I will present new work on the value of electricity reliability, which is a surprisingly understudied question in the existing economics and electricity literatures. I will present estimates of household willingness to pay to avoid power outages, which I obtain using a defensive expenditure approach estimated on proprietary, store-transaction level sales data of generators in the U.S. Given the estimate of $1.57/kWh of avoided outage that I obtain, I perform various calculations of potential utility investments in improved reliability and show that many grid-hardening investments, particularly undergrounding power lines, are hard to justify based on household value of lost load alone.
Bobby is an energy and environmental economist at the Energy Institute at Haas at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar affiliated with Berkeley’s Initiative on Equity in Energy and Environmental Economics. He completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Economics at Duke University in May 2022. Before obtaining his Ph.D. Bobby did his undergraduate studies at UNC Chapel Hill after growing up in coastal North Carolina. Bobby's research interests are in energy and environmental economics, industrial organization, and public economics. His job market paper uses proprietary data on generator sales in the U.S. to explore household willingness to pay for electricity reliability. In prior work, he has explored the efficiency and equity implications of environmental and energy policies, such as those for rooftop solar. Much of Bobby’s work and future agenda has implications for climate policy and the energy transition.