Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Applied Economics

First Advisor

Jose M. Abito

Second Advisor

Arthur van Benthem


In the first chapter of this dissertation we evaluate potential benefits of drinking water infrastructure investments in the United States. We estimate willingness-to-pay for high-quality drinking water using consumer avoidance behavior in response to health-based drinking water quality violations. To do so we estimate a household-level discrete choice model of drinking water. We find that the average household is willing to pay $162 per year to avoid a one standard deviation decrease in water quality. We additionally find that WTP for bottled water increases in income. We use these estimates to evaluate several counterfactual scenarios. In a scenario in which the United States' water infrastructure deteriorates to the levels of Flint, MI in 2014, we find that US households would be willing to spend 1.4 times the annual US public spending on water infrastructure, suggesting that consumer preferences strongly justify major increases in water infrastructure investments in the United States.The second chapter studies the design of renewable energy portfolios standards (RPSs). We focus on solar energy and analyze two common RPS rules: cross-state trading restrictions and state-specific interim annual targets. Using historically observed RPSs, together with our estimated state-level solar supply curves, we find that allowing for cross-state trading reduces cost by 24% and significantly changes the geographic distribution of new solar installations. Removing interim annual targets over the 2015-2019 period reduces cost by 32% by back-loading installations to later years. These cost reductions become much larger when considering more ambitious RPS targets. Our results suggest that more flexible program design such as allowing for cross-state trading, back-loading interim targets, or banking and borrowing renewable energy credits can avoid escalating costs and preserve the political feasibility of renewable energy standards

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