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The Behavioral Response to Voluntary Provision of an Environmental Public Good: Evidence from Residential Electricity Demand

  • Grant D. Jacobsen
  • Matthew J. Kotchen
  • Michael P. Vandenbergh

This paper develops a theory of voluntary provision of a public good in which a household's decision to engage in a form of environmentally friendly behavior is based on the desire to offset another behavior that is environmentally harmful. The model generates predictions about (1) participation in a green-electricity program at the extensive and intensive margins, and (2) changes in electricity consumption in response to participation. We test the theory using billing data for participants and nonparticipants in a green-electricity program in Memphis, Tennessee. High-consumption households are more likely to participate, and they participate at higher levels. In terms of a behavioral response, households participating above the minimum threshold level do not change electricity consumption, but those participating at the minimum threshold increase electricity consumption 2.5 percent after enrolling in the program. The result is based on identification strategies that exploit before-after differences between participants and nonparticipants, and differences in the timing of enrollment among participants only. Despite the increase in electricity demand upon the purchase of green electricity for the households with a "buy-in" mentality, the net effect for the buy-in households is a reduction in pollution emissions, as the behavioral response is not large enough to offset the environmental benefit of the green-electricity purchase.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16608.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Publication status: published as Jacobsen, G., M. Kotchen, and M. Vandenbergh, “The Behavioral Response to Voluntary Provision of an Environmental Public Good: Evidence from Residential Electricity Demand,” European Economic Review , 56 (2012) 946 - 960.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16608
Note: EEE PE
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  1. Rose, Steven K. & Clark, Jeremy & Poe, Gregory L. & Rondeau, Daniel & Schulze, William D., 2002. "The private provision of public goods: tests of a provision point mechanism for funding green power programs," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 131-155, February.
  2. Meyer, Bruce D, 1995. "Natural and Quasi-experiments in Economics," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 151-61, April.
  3. Matthew Kotchen & Michael Moore, 2007. "Conservation: From Voluntary Restraint to a Voluntary Price Premium," NBER Working Papers 13678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Marc N. Conte & Matthew J. Kotchen, 2010. "Explaining The Price Of Voluntary Carbon Offsets," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 1(02), pages 93-111.
  5. Matthew J. Kotchen, 2006. "Green Markets and Private Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 816-845, August.
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  7. Kotchen, Matthew J. & Moore, Michael R., 2007. "Private provision of environmental public goods: Household participation in green-electricity programs," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-16, January.
  8. Matthew J. Kotchen, 2007. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods for Bads: A Theory of Environmental Offsets," NBER Working Papers 13643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Roe, Brian & Teisl, Mario F. & Levy, Alan & Russell, Matthew, 2001. "US consumers' willingness to pay for green electricity," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 917-925, September.
  10. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
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  12. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Privately provided public goods in a large economy: The limits of altruism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 57-73, February.
  13. Harbaugh, William T, 1998. "The Prestige Motive for Making Charitable Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 277-82, May.
  14. Patricia Champ & Richard Bishop, 2001. "Donation Payment Mechanisms and Contingent Valuation: An Empirical Study of Hypothetical Bias," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 19(4), pages 383-402, August.
  15. Andrew A. Goett & Kathleen Hudson & Kenneth E. Train, 2000. "Customers' Choice Among Retail Energy Suppliers: The Willingness-to-Pay for Service Attributes," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 1-28.
  16. Jacobsen, Grant D., 2011. "The Al Gore effect: An Inconvenient Truth and voluntary carbon offsets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 67-78, January.
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