University of Houston Law Center Logo
Give Now  
HOME Faculty

Harvard Professor Joseph Aldy stresses the importance of evaluating clean energy initiatives during EENR Center speaker series

Harvard Professor Joseph Aldy stresses the importance of evaluating clean energy initiatives during EENR Center speaker series

October 13, 2021 - Professor Joseph Aldy of Harvard University presented evaluation options for clean energy policies and emphasized the significance of transparent analysis during a lecture hosted by the University of Houston Law Center's Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Center. The presentation is part of the Energy Transition and Climate Governance series, sponsored by the European Union through its Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant and the efforts of UH EENR Fellow (and Universite de Lyon III professor) Aubin Nzaou.

To begin, Aldy gave context to recent clean energy initiatives, citing the 2020 stimulus during the COVID-19 recession. During this time, he said environmental advocates proposed a green stimulus that would create jobs for people by spending on energy projects.

“We’ve had a lot of major clean energy spending proposals over the past year and a half,” he said.

Aldy said the two degree Celsius goal might require $2 trillion a year by 2030, and posed the question of “how do we know if we’re building back better?” by presenting the ways effective evaluation plays a vital role in programs’ success. Some of the benefits of a clean energy program evaluation include providing an effective demonstration of the policy’s efficacy, the ability to update policies accordingly and the advancement of the learning agenda for the climate.

Aldy also reflected on past initiatives and the lessons that came from them, and he said a standard for review applies equally to clean energy spending. He also pointed out that generating data through reporting and transparency was a crucial lesson from the 2009 Recovery Act that was developed in response to the Great Recession in 2008.

In one example of evaluation, Aldy discussed state energy-efficient appliance rebate programs for consumers who bought Energy Star rated appliances. While previously the comparison was drawn between consumers’ old appliances versus their new energy-efficient appliances purchased through rebate programs, Aldy said the best way to determine if the program was successful was to compare to what consumers would have purchased without the rebate.

“We evaluated the impact of this program and found that most people who claimed the rebate would have bought an Energy Star rated appliance anyway,” he said.

When it comes to planning for clean energy program evaluations, Aldy said it’s crucial to establish evaluation methods and data protocols at the beginning stages of a program and to go public with them. This includes developing guidance and resources for evaluations, identifying priority outcomes and acknowledging policies and programs that have the greatest learning potential.

“Commit to when you will analyze and say it publicly,” he said.

Aldy is a professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His research focuses on policy - specifically regarding climate change, energy and regulatory. He also served as the Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Environment through the National Economic Council and the Office of Energy and Climate Change at the White House during the Obama administration.

The next speaker in the series is Professor Tibisay Morgandi of Queen Mary University of London, School of Law, who will deliver remarks at 10 a.m. CT on Oct. 28. Prior speakers in the webinar series are Professor William Burns of American University, Professor Lisa Benjamin of the Lewis & Clark Law School, Professor Rebecca Bratspies of the City University of New York School of Law, Professor Uma Outka of the University of Kansas School of Law, Professor Joshua Galperin of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Professor Alexandra Klass of University of Minnesota Law School, Professor Lee Paddock of the George Washington University School of Law and Professor Roy Partain of the University of Aberdeen School of Law.

Back to News Homepage