Workshop on Energy and Environmental Research

UH Mānoa is particularly strong in energy, environment and resource policy, which often requires interdisciplinary research. This workshop is organized by UHERO and facilitates interaction among faculty and graduate students in UHERO, Economics, Engineering, NREM, DURP, SOEST and more. We also hope to draw participation from visitors and professional economists and policy analysts around the State. Work in progress is strongly encouraged!

Seminars will take place online over Zoom on Mondays from 12:00pm – 1:15pm. Subscribe to the WEER mailing list to receive the Zoom link and further information on upcoming sessions.

Class Credit:
Graduate students can obtain ECON 696 credit from Professor Roberts.

Spring 2022

Date

Speaker

Title

Abstract

January 31

Carlo Fezzi

Economic valuation for spatial targeting of coral reefs conservation in the face of climate change

February 7

Thuy Doan

Are We Building Too Much Natural Gas Pipeline? A comparison of actual US expansion of pipeline and storage to an optimized model of the interstate network

March 7

Veronica Gibson

Biocultural values of groundwater dependent ecosystems in Kona, Hawai‘i

Economic valuation for spatial targeting of coral reefs conservation in the face of climate change

Carlo Fezzi

Abstract:
Coral reefs are currently facing some of the greatest threats in their long history, such as increasing climate change and local stressors. Economic analyses can contribute to the conservation and restoration of these precious ecosystems by developing methods to understand which policy interventions are likely to deliver the highest benefits for the lowest cost, and which locations of implementation provide the highest values for the society. While the coral reef valuation literature is large, most studies provide results that are specific to a single site and lack the explicit spatial component needed for prioritizing intervention across heterogeneous landscapes. This work integrates ecological and socio-economic information on more than 170 different recreation sites located on the island of Maui within a structural, random utility model (RUM) estimated on more than 2500 recreation trips carried out by Maui residents in a period of 4 weeks. We use our model to provide the estimates of the economic impact of recent bleaching events, which are in the order of $30M per year. We also show how our estimates can be used to prioritize areas for ecosystem restoration.

Are We Building Too Much Natural Gas Pipeline?
A comparison of actual US expansion of pipeline and storage to an optimized model of the interstate network

Thuy Doan

Abstract:

Many consider natural gas to be a bridge to renewable energy. Between 2005 and 2019, coal-to-gas switching reduced electricity sector CO2 emissions by 61%. This change was driven by abundant shale gas made cheaply extractable by innovation in hydraulic fracturing. Natural gas power plants can be efficient, fast-to-build, relatively inexpensive, and flexible, which pairs well with intermittent wind and solar. But natural gas still emits about half the carbon per unit of energy as coal, while methane leaks from wellheads and pipelines greatly diminish these benefits. To achieve net zero, gas use will likely need to decline substantially, leading to stranded gas infrastructure assets that have not been fully depreciated. It is not clear whether regulators or pipeline companies have made desirable long-run plans. Even the Department of Energy projects continued growth of natural gas use well beyond 2050, the US goal for net zero emissions. If gas use declines substantially, then difficult questions arise about who will pay for stranded assets.

To shed light on this issue and aid future planning, this paper presents a novel, national-level capacity expansion model of pipeline and storage development. Taking supply and demand of gas as historically observed (2002-2019) and projected (through 2050), it finds the time-path of investments in interstate pipeline and storage that minimizes the cost of balancing supply and demand in each U.S. state on each day. The model’s novelty includes its simultaneous consideration of investments in pipeline capacity, storage capacity, and daily interstate flows, injections, and withdrawals of gas in storage. We then compare minimized costs to actual costs, and assess differences in model flows and storage use from those observed. Preliminary results indicate that the U.S. has invested much more in pipeline, and moderately less in storage, than are optimal. Overinvestment, however, is not uniform across states. Pipelines had been overbuilt in some regions while under-invested in others. States in the East region have underinvested in storage. Building additional storage may be more efficient than building more pipelines in some states. In future work, we plan to use the model to consider optimal future investment along alternative decarbonization pathways.

Biocultural values of groundwater dependent ecosystems in Kona, Hawai‘i

Veronica Gibson

Abstract:
Groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) are increasingly recognized as important conservation targets with linked ecological and social value. However, the social uses and values of GDEs have received relatively little attention in peer-reviewed literature, precluding their greater inclusion in policy and management decisions. To help fill this gap, we provide a case study from Kona, Hawaiʻi, where multiple types of GDEs are abundant, to illustrate the diversity of social uses and values of GDEs. To explore these uses and values, we combined a literature review, archival analysis, and key-informant interviews with resource managers and lineal descendants connected to three prominent GDEs: Indigenous aquaculture systems, anchialine pools, and nearshore ecosystems. Interviews focused on current and historical uses and values of GDEs, contemporary management challenges and strategies, and desired visions for the future. Interviewees expressed a range of uses and values associated with GDEs, which we categorized using a Hawaiʻi-based cultural ecosystem service framework focused on social connections, physical and mental health, spirituality, and knowledge. Importantly, results suggest that the historical value of these systems directly informs current social value, and that restoration efforts are largely carried out through biocultural approaches, which emphasize the mutually reinforcing restoration of ecology and culture. We found that interviewees seek to restore ecosystem functions, cultural practice and connection to place, and in some cases, local food production. Achieving these goals requires addressing multiple and interacting threats to these systems including invasive species, land-based sources of pollution, groundwater pumping, and climate change. Importantly, effective and equitable restoration also rests on recognition and amplification of Indigenous rights, knowledge, practice, and governance. Results provide important lessons for land and water management and policy in Hawaiʻi as well as other islands and coastal areas where GDEs have important linked social and ecological value.