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Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity of Marginal Emissions: Implications for Electric Cars and Other Electricity-Shifting Policies

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  • Joshua S. Graff Zivin
  • Matthew Kotchen
  • Erin T. Mansur

Abstract

In this paper, we develop a methodology for estimating marginal emissions of electricity demand that vary by location and time of day across the United States. The approach takes account of the generation mix within interconnected electricity markets and shifting load profiles throughout the day. Using data available for 2007 through 2009, with a focus on carbon dioxide (CO2), we find substantial variation among locations and times of day. Marginal emission rates are more than three times as large in the upper Midwest compared to the western United States, and within regions, rates for some hours of the day are more than twice those for others. We apply our results to an evaluation of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). The CO2 emissions per mile from driving PEVs are less than those from driving a hybrid car in the western United States and Texas. In the upper Midwest, however, charging during the recommended hours at night implies that PEVs generate more emissions per mile than the average car currently on the road. Underlying many of our results is a fundamental tension between electricity load management and environmental goals: the hours when electricity is the least expensive to produce tend to be the hours with the greatest emissions. In addition to PEVs, we show how our estimates are useful for evaluating the heterogeneous effects of other policies and initiatives, such as distributed solar and real-time pricing.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Matthew Kotchen & Erin T. Mansur, 2012. "Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity of Marginal Emissions: Implications for Electric Cars and Other Electricity-Shifting Policies," NBER Working Papers 18462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18462
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Matthew J. Kotchen & Michael R. Moore & Frank Lupi & Edward S. Rutherford, 2006. "Environmental Constraints on Hydropower: An Ex Post Benefit-Cost Analysis of Dam Relicensing in Michigan," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 82(3), pages 384-403.
    2. Stephen P. Holland & Erin T. Mansur, 2008. "Is Real-Time Pricing Green? The Environmental Impacts of Electricity Demand Variance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 550-561, August.
    3. Daniel T. Kaffine, Brannin J. McBee, and Jozef Lieskovsky, 2013. "Emissions Savings from Wind Power Generation in Texas," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    4. Paul R. Portney & Ian W.H. Parry & Howard K. Gruenspecht & Winston Harrington, 2003. "Policy Watch: The Economics of Fuel Economy Standards," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 203-217, Fall.
    5. Severin Borenstein & Stephen Holland, 2005. "On the Efficiency of Competitive Electricity Markets with Time-Invariant Retail Prices," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(3), pages 469-493, Autumn.
    6. Severin Borenstein, 2005. "The Long-Run Efficiency of Real-Time Electricity Pricing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 93-116.
    7. Graff Zivin, Joshua S. & Kotchen, Matthew J. & Mansur, Erin T., 2014. "Spatial and temporal heterogeneity of marginal emissions: Implications for electric cars and other electricity-shifting policies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 248-268.
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    9. Joseph Cullen, 2013. "Measuring the Environmental Benefits of Wind-Generated Electricity," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 107-133, November.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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