THE DECARBONIZATION TRANSFORMATION: ESSAYS ON THE ROLE OF CONSTITUENT ENTITIES IN THE U.S. ELECTRICITY SECTOR TRANSITION TO A LOW-CARBON FUTURE
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The threat of climate change requires significant transitions across all U.S. economic sectors should a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions be achieved by 2050. The U.S. electricity sector is the second-largest contributor to total emissions in the United States. This dissertation looks at entities that are the most likely to contribute towards the electricity grid transitions and the reasons why. The first essay finds that states with more aggressive electricity grid decarbonization policies require less adjustments to their electricity generation strategy on the event of federal intervention. Nationally, more aggressive policies ensure that the Federal government can impose less carbon taxes to obtain greater reduction of emissions from the electricity sector. The second essay finds that while most households own energy efficient appliances, they do not effectively control the temperatures of their equipment. The households that do use thermostats tend to be educated wealthy homeowners. The third essay finds that for several prosumers and utility combinations, there exists a valuation of distributed solar power generation that is amenable to both parties in terms of their economic benefits. These combinations are typically characterized by affordable systems, low leftover demand, and higher tariffs. Analyzing all three sets of actors, it is important to recognize that certain characteristics make some of them more suited to provide leadership in the U.S. electricity grid transition. While encouraging these actors to continue providing leadership in their relative segments, policymaking should also be concerned about incentivizing other actors to step up and play an important role in the transition process.