Selected Publications

  • Methodology for Monitoring Sustainable Development of Isolated Microgrids in Rural Communities

    Microgrids are a rapidly evolving and increasingly common form of local power generation used to serve the needs of both rural and urban communities. In this paper, we present a methodology to evaluate the evolution of the sustainability of stand-alone microgrids projects. The proposed methodology considers a composite sustainability index (CSI) that includes both positive and negative impacts of the operation of the microgrid in a given community. The CSI is constructed along environmental, social, economic and technical dimensions of the microgrid. The sub-indexes of each dimension are aggregated into the CSI via a set of adaptive weighting factors, which indicate the relative importance of the corresponding dimension in the sustainability goals. The proposed methodology aims to be a support instrument for policy makers especially when defining sound corrective measures to guarantee the sustainability of small, isolated microgrid projects. To validate the performance of the proposed methodology, a microgrid installed in the northern part of Chile (Huatacondo) has been used as a benchmarking project.

  • Promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency in Africa: a framework to evaluate employment gener

    The ongoing debate over the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) deployment often hinges on the current cost of incumbent fossil-fuel technologies versus the long-term benefit of clean energy alternatives. This debate is often focused on mature or ‘industrialized’ economies and externalities such as job creation. In many ways, however, the situation in developing economies is at least as or even more interesting due to the generally faster current rate of economic growth and of infrastructure deployment. On the one hand, RE and EE could help decarbonize economies in developing countries, but on the other hand, higher upfront costs of RE and EE could hamper short-term growth. The methodology developed in this paper confirms the existence of this trade-off for some scenarios, yet at the same time provides considerable evidence about the positive impact of EE and RE from a job creation and employment perspective. By extending and adopting a methodology for Africa designed to calculate employment from electricity generation in the U.S., this study finds that energy savings and the conversion of the electricity supply mix to renewable energy generates employment compared to a reference scenario. It also concludes that the costs per additional job created tend to decrease with increasing levels of both EE adoption and RE shares.

    The ongoing debate over the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) deployment often hinges on the current cost of incumbent fossil-fuel technologies versus the long-term benefit of clean energy alternatives. This debate is often focused on mature or ‘industrialized’ economies and externalities such as job creation. In many ways, however, the situation in developing economies is at least as or even more interesting due to the generally faster current rate of economic growth and of infrastructure deployment. On the one hand, RE and EE could help decarbonize economies in developing countries, but on the other hand, higher upfront costs of RE and EE could hamper short-term growth. The methodology developed in this paper confirms the existence of this trade-off for some scenarios, yet at the same time provides considerable evidence about the positive impact of EE and RE from a job creation and employment perspective. By extending and adopting a methodology for Africa designed to calculate employment from electricity generation in the U.S., this study finds that energy savings and the conversion of the electricity supply mix to renewable energy generates employment compared to a reference scenario. It also concludes that the costs per additional job created tend to decrease with increasing levels of both EE adoption and RE shares.

  • Why the Democrats and Republicans are Both Right on Climate

    Over the past two years, two thoughtful, innovative, and dramatically different plans to address global warming have been presented to the American public by the Democratic and the Republican Parties. Both plans would move the nation significantly toward a sustainable future. 

  • Tax Policy Toward Low-Income Families

    The Economics of Tax Policy, Oxford Unviersity Press, Edited by Alan Auerbach and Kent Smetters, 2017. (Joint with Jesse Rothstein)

    In this paper, we review the most prominent provision of the federal income tax code that targets low-income tax filers, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), as well as the structurally similar Child Tax Credit (CTC). We frame the paper around what we see as the programs’ goals: distributional, promoting work, and limiting administrative and compliance costs. We review what is known about program impacts and distributional consequences under current law, drawing on simulations from the Tax Policy Center. We conclude that the EITC is quite successful in meeting its three goals. In contrast, most of the benefits of the CTC go to higher income households. In addition to analyzing current law, we assess possible reforms that would reach groups – for the EITC, those without children; for the CTC, those with very low earnings – who are largely missed under current policy.

  • Can the US keep the PACE? A natural experiment in accelerating the growth of solar electricity

    Growing global awareness of climate change has ushered in a new era demanding policy, financial and behavioural innovations to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Dramatic price decreases in solar photovoltaics (PV) and public policy have underwritten the expansion of solar power, now accounting for the largest share of renewable energy in California and rising fast in other countries, such as Germany and Italy. Governments’ efforts to expand solar generation base and integrate it into municipal, regional, and national energy systems, have spawned several programs that require rigorous policy evaluations to assess their effectiveness, costs and contribution to Paris Agreement’s goals. In this study, we exploit a natural experiment in northern California to test the capacity of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to promote PV investment. PACE has been highly cost effective by more than doubling residential PV installations.

  • Consumers Buy Lower-Cost Plans on Covered California Suggesting Premium Increases Are Less Than Commonly Reported
  • The EITC: A Key Policy to Support Families Facing Wage Stagnation

    IRLE Policy Brief, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UC Berkeley, January 2017.

  • Illegality: A Contemporary Portrait of Immigration

    Gonzales, Roberto G., and Steven Raphael (2017), “Illegality: A Contemporary Portrait of Immigration,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 3(4): 1–17.