Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Economics, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Paul Peretz

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tom Kniesner

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Joshua Tasoff

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2023 James J Hoffman


California, LCOE, Democratic societies, Geographical factors, Solar, Wind electricity

Subject Categories

Climate | Economics | Energy Policy


In recent years democratic societies have added concern for the environment to the perennial problems of inequality, economic growth, and law and order. What is often called the Green Revolution has focused on the effect of industrial growth on the health of the individuals living in that society and on the effects on climate. In the United States, the State that was the first to see this problem and the first to make changes to deal with it, was California, where geographical factors ensured that the effects of industrial change on the air were much more severe than anywhere else in the United States. This dissertation looks at the changes that have been made in the way that electricity is produced in California over the last 25 years. It examines the costs of these changes and the benefits accruing from those changes to people in California. It argues that previous efforts have incorrectly measured the costs of different ways of producing electricity, leading to misleading conclusions about which methods are most appropriate. It also argues that while there are benefits, they are less than most of the current literature assumes. Solar and wind electricity have gained support in California, partly because they generate without carbon emissions, and partly because they are viewed as the lowest cost options according to the levelized cost of electricity, LCOE (U.S. Energy Information Administration 2021, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2021, Lazard 2021, The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute 2021, California Energy Commission 2019). In this dissertation, I show that the LCOE is not the proper measure to value new power plants, and I recalculate costs in California with a method I call the CALCOE, or California’s Adjusted Levelized Cost of Electricity. CALCOE results show that California has in fact lowered average generation costs over time. The estimate was $63.25 for California’s dollars per megawatt hour ($/MWh) generation cost in 2020, as compared with $128.37 in 2001. Costs have declined to their lowest level in the 2001-2020 period. There are many assumed benefits from reducing carbon emissions, such as improved health from air quality, impeding climate change, and (to a lesser degree) aesthetic benefits like better visibility or views. This dissertation focuses on the health-related benefits of air pollution mitigation in California (American Lung Association 2022a, CARB 2022, CDC 2022, Brajer et al . 2011, Jerrett et al . 2005, Jerrett et al. 2013, Krewski 2010, Ostro et al. 2006a, Ostro et al. 2007, Ostro et al. 2006b, Wang 2019, Wang et al. 2020, You et al. 2018, Young et al. 2017, Zapata et al. 2018, Zhao et al. 2019, American Lung Association 2022b). I do this by re-examining historical air quality levels in California and across the United States, measured by both fine particulate matter PM 2.5 and ozone O 3 , and the commonly associated health conditions that are linked to pollution, notably respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and deaths. Multiple regression results show that these health benefits are much lower than those commonly cited in the literature.