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. She also serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Faculty. She is 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
July 2019 - present, 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)
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”.
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.
Ontario's energy woes should be a warning
The Hill online
After phasing out coal, Ontario now has the fastest-growing electricity costs in Canada and among the highest rates in North America, the author writes. And according to a study by Prof. Catherine Wolfram, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration, on energy efficiency measures in Michegan, a savings produced by home retrofits can be far less impressive than expected.
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
Catherine Wolfram says subsidies to renewable energy generators could actually increase electricity prices by reducing the profits and thus the long-run supply of unsubsidized conventional alternatives like natural gas generators.
Does Providing Electricity To The Poor Reduce Poverty? Research Suggests Not Quite
The head of Swedfund, the development finance group, recently summarized a widely-held belief: “Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women’s empowerment and combating poverty.” This view has been the driving force behind a number of efforts to provide electricity to the 1.1 billion people around the world living in energy poverty.
Sacramento Nudges People to Use Less Electricity at Peak Hours
Bloomberg Businessweek online
Electric utilities have a problem with peak demand. They need to build enough power plants to keep the lights on and the air conditioning running on the hottest days, even if many of those plants operate only a few days a year. Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California calculated that it could build 44 percent fewer “peaking” plants if it could cut peak usage by charging more for power during periods of high demand. The problem for the utility was that most customers didn’t sign up for variable pricing plans.
As Solar Pushes Electricity Prices Negative, 3 Solutions for California’s Power Grid
Inside Climate News online
For a time this spring in California, as the snow melted above hydroelectric dams, the sun shone on solar arrays, and the wind whipped through turbines, the state was confronted with both a blessing and a curse.
Trump wants to cut programs that help buildings save energy. This new study says they work.
The Washington Post online
"This presents a problem when evaluating the effectiveness of an energy efficiency program because it means we can’t necessarily assume that the program is what caused a building owner to make an investment in efficiency upgrades, noted energy economics expert Catherine Wolfram of the University of California at Berkeley, who was also not involved with the new study..."
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