Areas of Expertise (4)
Energy Policy and Climate Change
Energy In The Developing World
New Data Collection Techniques
Catherine Wolfram is the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration at the Haas School of Business. Beginning in March 2021, she is on leave from UC Berkeley to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate & Energy Economics in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to her leave, she served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Faculty. She was also the Program Director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Environment and Energy Economics Program, and an affiliated faculty member in the Agriculture and Resource Economics department and the Energy and Resources Group at Berkeley.
Wolfram has published extensively on the economics of energy markets. Her work has analyzed rural electrification programs in the developing world, energy efficiency programs in the US, the effects of environmental regulation on energy markets and the impact of privatization and restructuring in the US and UK. She is currently implementing several randomized controlled trials to evaluate energy programs in the U.S., Ghana, and Kenya.
She received a PhD in Economics from MIT in 1996 and an AB from Harvard in 1989. Before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, she was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Harvard.
MIT: PhD, Economics
Harvard University: AB, Economics
Honors & Awards (3)
Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, Evening MBA Program
Barbara and Gerson Bakar Faculty Fellow
Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, Evening & Weekend MBA Program
Selected External Service & Affiliations (3)
- Faculty Scientist, Energy Technologies Area, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
- Board of Editors, The Energy Journal
Positions Held (1)
At Haas since 2000
March 2021 - present, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate & Energy Economics, U.S. Department of the Treasury July 2019 - March 2021, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Faculty 2018 – 2019, Acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs 2016 – present, Program Director, National Bureau of Economic Research’s Environment and Energy Economics Program 2013 – present, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration, Haas School of Business 2013 – present, Faculty Director, The E2e Project 2009 – 2018, Faculty Director, Energy Institute at Haas 2005 – 2013, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Haas School of Business 2000 – 2005, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Haas School of Business 1996 – 2000, Assistant Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Media Appearances (17)
UC Berkeley professor Catherine Wolfram appointed to serve at US Treasury
The Daily Californian online
“Climate change is a very important issue, but not much progress has been made on the federal level,” Wolfram said. “I hope to do what I can to support the federal government in bringing its great power and persuasion into helping us solve the climate crisis.”
To Lead Climate Initiatives at Treasury, Biden Turns to Another UC Berkeley Academic
President Biden has tapped Catherine Wolfram, the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and associate dean for Academic Affairs, as his latest climate hire. Wolfram, a leading expert on climate change and energy markets, will serve as a deputy assistant secretary for climate and energy economics, a newly-created position at the Treasury Department. "It’s one thing to sit in your office and write about what policy makers should and shouldn’t do, but I’m really curious to see how these decisions get made in practice," she said.
U.S. Treasury names climate economist, tax partner to senior posts
Prof. Catherine Wolfram has been named as deputy assistant secretary for climate and energy economics in the Office of Economic Policy. She is known for her work on energy efficiency investments in the United States and the electricity sectors in Kenya, Ghana, and India.
Following up on how much EVs are really driven
Axios Generate online
A new working paper co-authored by Catherine Wolfram, the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and chair of the faculty, found that people drive their electric vehicles less than half the amount assumed by state regulators. That suggests drivers may not be using EVs as a direct replacement for their gas-powered cars, and policymakers may be underestimating the costs of going fully electric. The article mentions an Energy Institute Blog post by Wolfram that answers some of the questions raised about the study.
People Are Driving Electric Vehicles Less Than Projected
UC Davis News online
New research co-authored by Catherine Wolfram, the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and chair of the faculty, found that electric vehicles are being driven less than expected, which may mean policymakers are underestimating the costs of going fully electric. "Along with incentivizing people to purchase and drive EVs, policymakers should be investing in the infrastructure needed to ensure that EVs take full advantage of renewable sources of electricity," she said.
Berkeley scholars: Here’s what Biden should accomplish right away
Berkeley News online
Catherine Wolfram, the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and Chair of the Faculty, says rejoining the Paris Agreement has great symbolic value, but the real work for Pres. Joe Biden's administration will be adopting policies that will have tangible impact. "For example, I’d rather the U.S. government spend a dollar on finding new ways to reduce emissions at manufacturing plants than on promoting more Teslas," she said. "The cost of a Tesla far exceeds the income of most people in the world, but there are greenhouse gas-intensive manufacturing plants in most places."
Utilities can help their central banks, “loaning” electricity during the slump
Energy Post online
The coronavirus slump is forcing governments around the world to inject large amounts of cash into the hands of consumers and businesses, until this is all over. In the U.S. it’s $2tn. Catherine Wolfram at the Haas School of Business suggests a way to cut that bill, easing the pressure on central bankers.
Predicting global air conditioning demand, by nation
Energy Post online
In a new paper, my coauthors — Leo Biardeau, Paul Gertler, Catherine Wolfram — and I rank 219 countries and 1,692 cities based on what we call “air conditioning potential”.
Eight countries could outstrip the US for air conditioning
Cooling Post online
Prof. Lucas Davis, the Jeffrey A. Jacobs Distinguished Professor and the Faculty Director of the Energy Institute at Haas; Prof. Catherine Wolfram, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Chair of the Faculty and the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration; and Prof. Paul Gertler, the Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics and Scientific Director of the Center for Effective Global Action, found that there are large potential increases in electricity consumption that will come from air conditioning.
October's Power Shutoffs Prompt Interest in Getting off the Grid
KQED Forum online
As California experiences repeated "public safety power shutoffs" this wildfire season, some Californians are making plans to power their homes and businesses without relying on the grid. The recent fires and blackouts have put a renewed focus on the reliability and safety of existing electrical infrastructure, as well as the unexpected costs and risks of relying on a grid that may be powered off during a disaster. This hour, Forum looks at getting off the grid and alternative energy options to power homes and small communities.
Massive power shut-off would cost businesses in California
Catherine Wolfram is a business professor and expert on energy policy at University of California, Berkeley, which is also bracing for the outage. She said events like these can really cripple business.
Why extreme climate scenarios no longer seem so unlikely
PBS News Hour online
Catherine Wolfram: If the world used as much electricity for air conditioning as the U.S. currently does, then we would use as much electricity for air conditioning as we do for everything right now.
GDP - gross environmental damage = actual wealth creation
Energy Post EU online
Prof. Catherine Wolfram, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, argues for a new way of looking at growth in this article. "With regular-old GDP, an economy is growing if it’s consuming more stuff. Once we account for environmental damages, though, an economy can grow either by consuming more good stuff or less bad stuff, like pollution," she writes.
Opinion: What are you getting if you buy clean electricity?
Mercury News online
Catherine Wolfram, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas, writes that as long as consumers in other parts of the west don’t care about the provenance of their electricity, “clean” energy can be simply swapped out on paper, with the “dirty” power going to those who pay less attention. That does nothing to address climate change.
Down to the last mile: Key research needs for energy access
Center for Strategic and International Studies online
Research on Kenya by Catherine Wolfram, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas, indicates that generous subsidies are not sufficient to boost electricity connection uptake.
California’s zero-carbon bill aims to set climate example
Bloomberg News online
California emits a small fraction of the global greenhouse gases driving climate change, so a new state bill only makes sense if it can influence the rest of the country, said Prof. Catherine Wolfram, chair of the Economic Analysis and Policy Group. “That’s what any reasonable policy maker in California should be thinking about: How this should impact not just other states, but the rest of the world, if we’re able to set an example for them,” Wolfram said.
State Subsidies and Electricity Markets
Cato Institute online
According to Catherine Wolfram of the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, the predictions of Lesser have become reality. Natural gas generators in The Pennsylvania‐New Jersey‐Maryland (PJM) regional electricity market have not received revenues sufficient to cover their capital costs in most years since 2009. Under such circumstances existing plants eventually will cease operation and no new plants will be built. Higher prices and uncertain supply are inevitable.
Selected Research Grants (3)
E2e Evidence-Based Policy Fellowships
Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Co-Principal Investigator (with Michael Greenstone and Chris Knittel) 2018-2021
The Political Economy of Rural Electrification
Funded by the Department for International Development
Co-Principal Investigator (with Ted Miguel) 2018-2021
A Pilot Study of Novel Low-Cost Technologies for Measuring Electricity Reliability in Urban Ghana
Funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation
Co-Principal Investigator (with Prabal Dutta and Jay Taneja) 2017-2018
Selected Papers & Publications (4)
Does Household Electrification Supercharge Economic Development?Journal of Economic Perspectives
Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, Catherine Wolfram
Experimental Evidence on the Economics of Rural ElectrificationJournal of Political Economy
Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, Catherine Wolfram
Do Energy Efficiency Investments Deliver? Evidence from the Weatherization Assistance ProgramQuarterly Journal of Economics
Catherine Wolfram, Meredith Fowlie, and Michael Greenstone
The Demand for Energy-Using Assets among the World’s Rising Middle ClassesAmerican Economic Review
Catherine Wolfram, Paul Gertler, Orie Shelef and Alan Fuchs
Design and Evaluation of Development Technology
Design, Evaluate and Scale Development Technologies