Workshop on Energy and Environmental Research

UH Mānoa is particularly strong in energy, environment and resource policy, which often requires interdisciplinary research. This workshop facilitates interaction among faculty and graduate students in UHEROEconomicsEngineeringNREMDURPSOEST 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.

Fall 2020

Date Speaker Title
24-Aug Michael Roberts Introduction to Workshop
31-Aug Makena Coffman and Sherilyn Hayashida Pathways to Decarbonization for O‘ahu: 2020-2045
7-Sept No Seminar (Labor Day)
14-Sept Nori Tarui Economic Impacts of Sea Level Rise and Coastal Management
21-Sept Reed Walker (Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley) Is Air Pollution Regulation Too Stringent?
28-Sept Matthias Fripp A benchmark renewable energy plan for performance-based regulation in Hawaii
5-Oct Nick Hagerty (Montana State University) Adaptation to Water Scarcity in Irrigated Agriculture
12-Oct Sisi Zhang Estimating Potentially Flexible Electricity Demand in the Continental United States
19-Oct Sarah Medoff Pollution Havens in High Seas Fisheries
26-Oct Leah Bremer TBA
2-Nov Chris Wada Mountain-to-sea ecological-resource management: Forested watersheds,
coastal aquifers, and groundwater dependent ecosystems
9-Nov Nathan DeMaagd Tourism and water scarcity: The impact of hotels and vacation rentals on water resources
16-Nov Kim Burnett Incorporating historical spring discharge protection into groundwater management: A case study from Pearl Harbor Aquifer, Hawai‘i
23-Nov Marcus Peng TBA
30-Nov Dongkyu Park The The Impact of Earthquake on Housing Prices near Nuclear Power Plants: Focusing on Kyungju City in Korea
7-Dec John Lynham FishNet: Species Classification and Size Regression for Stock Assessment using a Hand-Labelled Dataset of One Million Fish

Pathways to Decarbonization for O‘ahu: 2020-2045

Makena Coffman and Sherilyn Hayashida


In 2018, City Council Resolution 18-221 requested the creation of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to establish comprehensive milestones to transition O‘ahu to 100 percent renewable energy on the path to carbon neutrality by 2045. This presentation focuses on the variety of policies and programs that reduce GHG emissions, from 2020 to 2045, for O‘ahu. Decarbonization strategies are also assessed with public input from an island-wide representative survey.

Sea Level Rise Impacts on Property Value in Honolulu

Nori Tarui


Sea level rise (SLR) associated with climate change will affect assets, their value, and land use decisions in many coastal areas around the world. Recent studies find that exposure to the risk of future SLR is associated with lower current property values in many coastal areas. In this study we apply property transaction data in the City & County of Honolulu (Oʻahu) between 1994 and 2019 to investigate the effect of current and expected SLR exposure on residential property prices. Using detailed state data on properties under various SLR scenarios (including bathtub modeling as well as considering impacts of seasonal wave run-up and exacerbated coastal erosion patterns), we find that exposed properties have already suffered negative impacts to transaction prices at around 8%. The estimated economic impacts provide implications to coastal management strategies as a climate change adaptation measure; and how alternative strategies such as managed retreat, managed buyback and coastal armoring compare in terms of relative benefits and costs.

Is Air Pollution Regulation Too Stringent?

Reed Walker (UC Berkeley) Working Paper Appendix


This paper describes a new approach to estimating the marginal cost of air pollution regulation, then applies it to assess whether a large set of existing U.S. air pollution regulations are too stringent or lenient. The approach utilizes an important yet underexplored provision of the Clean Air Act requiring new or expanding plants to pay incumbents in the same or neighboring counties to reduce their pollution emissions. These “offset” regulations create hundreds of decentralized, local markets for pollution that differ by pollutant and location. We show how offset transaction prices can be interpreted as measures of the marginal cost of abatement, and we compare them to estimates of the marginal benefit of abatement from leading air quality models. We find that for most regions and pollutants, regulation is too lenient; marginal abatement costs are persistently and substantially below marginal abatement benefits. In at least one market, however, regulation is too stringent—the marginal costs of abatement significantly exceed the marginal benefits of abatement. Marginal abatement costs have increased in real terms by over 6 percent annually. Notably, our revealed preference estimates of marginal abatement costs differ enormously from typical engineering estimates. Theory and evidence suggest that using price rather than existing quantity regulation in these markets could increase social welfare.

A benchmark renewable energy plan for performance-based regulation in Hawaii

Matthias Fripp


Hawaii recently adopted landmark laws requiring 100% renewable generation by 2045 and performance-based regulation of our electric utilities by 2021. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is now finishing a 2.5 year process to establish performance metrics and incentives for the Hawaiian Electric companies. I will give a brief overview of the issues addressed in this proceeding and discuss my role in this process. I will focus primarily on my work with the Ulupono Initiative to develop a forecast for the future design of the Oahu power system, for parties to use in benchmarking the financial effect of performance incentives on the utility. I will contrast this least-cost system design with a dirtier and costlier plan put forward by Hawaiian Electric. This will show some of the factors in play in performance-based ratemaking and highlight concerns to watch for as Hawaiian Electric moves ahead with integrated resource planning next year.

Mountain-to-sea ecological-resource management: Forested watersheds, coastal aquifers, and groundwater dependent ecosystems

Christopher Wada


Improving the understanding of connections spanning from mountain to sea and integrating those connections into decision models have been increasingly recognized as key to effective coastal resource management. In this paper, we aim to improve our understanding of the relative importance of linkages between a forested watershed, a coastal groundwater aquifer, and a nearshore marine groundwater-dependent ecosystem (GDE) using a dynamic groundwater optimization framework and simple ecosystem equations. Data from the Kiholo aquifer on the Kona Coast of Hawai’i Island are used to numerically illustrate optimal joint management strategies and test the sensitivity of those strategies to variations in physical and behavioral parameter values. We find that for a plausible range of watershed management costs, protecting part of the recharge capture area is always optimal. Without watershed protection, maintaining a safe minimum standard growth rate for a GDE-dependent marine indicator species, reduces net present value non-trivially, but optimal investment in watershed conservation offsets that potential reduction by 75%. In general, we find that optimal watershed management and groundwater pumping are most sensitive to changes in water demand growth and parameters that describe nearshore salinity.

Tourism and water scarcity: The impact of hotels and vacation rentals on water resources

Nathan DeMaagd


In many parts of the world, tourism is beginning to have a negative effect on natural resource sustainability. This is particularly true of small, isolated islands whose economies rely heavily on tourism, but have limited sources of freshwater. In these cases, the islands often rely on freshwater aquifers with withdrawal rates potentially exceeding sustainable yield. Changes in future climate may put further strains on the aquifers if recharge from rainfall decreases. Our study follows others who have investigated tourism-heavy islands by examining the relationship between tourism and water use on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, while contributing to the literature in two key ways: (1) unlike other studies that focus on islands in developing countries, we focus on an island in a highly industrialized nation with much different demographics, economy, and institutions; and (2) to our knowledge, we are the first to separately consider the effects of traditional hotels and resorts, and the increasingly-popular transient vacation rentals like Airbnb, VRBO, and Home Away. Using a 7-year panel of monthly billing data, along with information gathered about tourism, hotels, and Airbnbs, we find hotel water use is positively associated with hotel occupancy, but there is no significant relationship between residential water use and Airbnb occupancy. Limitations of the study are considered, and potential strategies for water resource sustainability in light of global tourism growth are discussed.

Incorporating historical spring discharge protection into groundwater management: A case study from Pearl Harbor Aquifer, Hawai‘i​

Kimberly M. Burnett, Ahmed S. Elshall, Christopher A. Wada, Aida Arik, Aly El-Kadi, Clifford I. Voss, Jade Delevaux, and Leah L. Bremer


Groundwater management policy around the world increasingly seeks to protect groundwater-dependent ecosystems. This includes human uses tied to natural spring discharge that is important for these linked systems. There are few examples of practical tools to balance human groundwater use with ecological water demand related to spring discharge. Using a simulation optimization framework, we directly incorporate a spring discharge constraint into the analysis of sustainable yield for operationalizing groundwater policy in the state of Hawai‘i. Our application on the island of O‘ahu is a spring discharge-dependent watercress farm with historical, cultural, and ecological significance. This research provides decisionmakers in Hawai‘i with information regarding the trade-off between groundwater withdrawal and spring discharge, which is connected to multiple benefits, including historical and cultural values in line with codified state beneficial use protections.

The The Impact of Earthquake on Housing Prices near Nuclear Power Plants: Focusing on Kyungju City in Korea

Dongkyu Park


This study focused on estimating the willingness to pay for housing to measure the value of potential risk of Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Korea by using Hedonic price model. This paper employed house transaction data with difference-in-differences method for estimating the value of NPP by comparing the impacts of two exogenous shocks on housing prices near Gori NPP in South Korea. One is the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and another is the earthquake of Pohang city in 2017. The Fukushima accident does not affect housing prices near the NPP. On the other hand, there was a long term negative effect for the Pohang earthquake. The result shows that the potential risk of the NPP is well reflected in South Korea real estate market after the Pohang earthquake.