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 (15)
A New Approach to Lending in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
National Bureau of Economic Research online
A new form of digital collateral is proving effective in helping low-income people around the world, according to research co-authored by Paul Gertler, the Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics and faculty director of the Institute for Business & Social Impact, and Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration Catherine Wolfram. Digital collateral allows a person to borrow in order to buy an asset, such as a smartphone. If the borrower fails to make payments, the lender can lock the phone remotely until payments are resumed, which creates an incentive to repay.
Treasury Expects to Borrow $1.3 Trillion Over Second Half of Fiscal 2021
The Wall Street Journal online
Recent data suggest the economy is well on its way to its pre-pandemic health. The Commerce Department said last week that GDP grew at a 6.4% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the first quarter, putting the economy within 1% of its peak reached in late 2019. “There appears to be momentum building in the economy,” said Prof. Catherine Wolfram, Acting Assistant Treasury Secretary for Economic Policy (on leave as Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration). “Underlying domestic demand by consumers, businesses, and builders, buttressed by fiscal policy, has proved resilient in the face of multiple headwinds.”
Biden plan would pump billions into home retrofits
E&E News online
Although the Recovery Act in 2009 was the most substantial federal investment in energy efficiency at the time, some of the programs generated mixed results, according to research by Catherine Wolfram, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration, and Assoc. Prof Meredith Fowlie, faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas. They found that upgrading one's home through a weatherization program in Michigan might not be worth the upfront costs. The energy savings from the program over 16 years covered less than half of the costs of weatherization.
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.
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