ESSAYS ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND FOREST CONSERVATION
Maher, Joseph Andrew
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This dissertation is composed of three essays in environmental economics related to residential energy efficiency and forest conservation. My first paper assesses the effectiveness of energy-efficient technologies in the setting of a utility rebate program. To date, the energy savings from energy-efficiency building retrofits are assessed using ex-ante engineering models. My analysis provides the first evaluation of engineering models that uses residential billing data, combined with data on observable characteristics of each residence, to assess the accuracy of engineering predictions across nine retrofit technologies used in Gainesville, Florida. My second essay presents the first causal evidence that trees have a major impact on consumer demand—with large shade trees reducing household electricity use by more than 20 percent. This work contributes to the existing literature on the energy saving potential of urban forests by implementing a quasi-experimental design to identify a causal link between tree shade and energy use. Results suggest that the energy savings from tree shade are an order of magnitude greater than other energy-efficiency policy measures, providing new evidence that tree ordinances may serve as effective demand-side management policies. My third essay assesses the effectiveness of forest conservation policies in reducing carbon emissions from deforestation. To date, the effectiveness of protected areas has been assessed using cross-sectional methods. In this essay, new quasi-experimental models using panel data on annual deforestation are used to reveal new insights into the importance of government oversight of protected areas with findings that counter economists’ prior notions of the avoided deforestation of new parks. I extend the analysis to estimate avoided carbon emissions, a key policy metric that varies considerably from deforestation trends.