Ho, Mun S.

Jianglong Li, Mun S. Ho, Chunping Xie, and Nicholas Stern. 2022. “China's flexibility challenge in achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 158, April, Pp. 112112.Abstract
China, with a heavy dependence on coal power, has announced a clear goal of carbon neutrality by 2060. Electrification of final energy use and high penetration of renewable energy are essential to achieve this. The resulting growth of intermittent renewables and changes in demand curve profiles require greater flexibility in the power system for real-time balancing – greater ability of generators and consumers to ramp up and down. However, the plan and market system with regulated prices makes this challenging. We discuss the options to improve flexibility, including 1) increasing supply-side flexibility, through retrofitting existing power plants to boost their responsiveness; 2) promoting flexibility from power grids, through building an efficient power grid with inter-provincial and inter-regional transmission capacity to balance spatial mismatch, given that China has a vast territory; 3) encouraging demand flexibility, through demand-response measures to enable demand shifting over time and space to address fluctuations in renewable energy generation; and 4) providing flexibility from energy storage. We consider policies to achieve this, in particular, power market reforms to unlock the flexibility potential of these sources. Regulated electricity prices and lack of auxiliary services markets are major obstacles and we discuss how markets in other countries provide lessons in providing incentives for a more flexible system.
Jianglong Li and Mun S. Ho. 2022. “Indirect cost of renewable energy: Insights from dispatching.” Energy Economics, 105, January 2022, Pp. 105778. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The rapidly falling costs of renewable energy has made them the focus of efforts in making a low-carbon transition. However, when cheap large-scale energy storage is not available, the variability of renewables implies that fossil-based technologies have to ramp up-and-down frequently to provide flexibility for matching electricity demand and supply. Here we provide a study on the indirect cost of renewable energy due to thermal efficiency loss of coal plants with such ramping requirements. Using monthly panel data for China, we show that higher renewable share is associated with fewer operating hours of coal-fired units (COHOUR). We use an instrumental variable depending on natural river flows to identify the causal effect of reduced COHOURs in raising the heat rate of coal-fired units. Specifically, a 1 percentage point increase in the share of renewables leads to a 6.4 h reduction per month, and a reduction of one COHOUR results in a 0.09 gce/kWh increase of gross heat rate (+0.03%). We estimate that the thermal efficiency loss indicates 4.77 billion US dollars of indirect cost of renewables in 2019, or 9.44 billion if we include the social cost of carbon emissions. These results indicate that we should consider the indirect impacts of renewables on total coal use and the importance of increasing flexibility of the system.
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Rong Ma, and Fei Teng. 2021. “When carbon emission trading meets a regulated industry: Evidence from the electricity sector of China.” Journal for Public Economics, 200, August, Pp. 104470. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper provides retrospective firm-level evidence on the effectiveness of China’s carbon market pilots in reducing emissions in the electricity sector. We show that the carbon emission trading system (ETS) has no effect on changing coal efficiency of regulated coal- fired power plants. Although we find a significant reduction in coal consumption associated with ETS participation, this reduction was achieved by reducing electricity production. The output contraction in the treated plants is not due to their optimizing behavior but is likely driven by government decisions, because the impacts of emission permits on marginal costs are small relative to the controlled electricity prices and the reduction is associated with financial losses. In addition, we find no evidence of carbon leakage to other provinces, but a significant increase in the production of non-coal-fired power plants in the ETS regions. 
Jing Cao, Hancheng Dai, Shantong Li, Chaoyi Guo, Mun Ho, Wenjia Cai, Jianwu He, Hai Huang, Jifeng Li, Yu Liu, Haoqi Qian, Can Wang, Libo Wu, and Xiliang Zhang. 2021. “The general equilibrium impacts of carbon tax policy in China: a multi-model assessment.” Energy Economics, 99, July, Pp. 105284. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We conduct a multi-model comparison of a carbon tax policy in China to examine how different models simulate the impacts in both near-term 2020, medium-term 2030, and distant future 2050. Though Top-down computable general equilibrium(CGE) models have been applied frequently on climate or other environmental/energy policies to assess emission reduction, energy use and economy-wide general equilibrium outcomes in China, the results often vary greatly across models, making it challenging to derive policies. We compare 8 China CGE models with different characteristics to examine how they estimate the effects of a plausible range of carbon tax scenarios – low, medium and high carbon taxes.. To make them comparable we impose the same population growth, the same GDP growth path and world energy price shocks. We find that the 2030 NDC target for China are easily met in all models, but the 2060 carbon neutrality goal cannot be achieved even with our highest carbon tax rates. Through this carbon tax comparison, we find all 8 CGE models differ substantially in terms of impacts on the macroeconomy, aggregate prices, energy use and carbon reductions, as well as industry level output and price effects. We discuss the reasons for the divergent simulation results including differences in model structure, substitution parameters, baseline renewable penetration and methods of revenue recycling.
Jaume Freire-González and Mun S. Ho. 2021. “Voluntary actions in households and climate change mitigation.” Journal of Cleaner Production, 321, 25 October, Pp. 128930. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Governments foster voluntary actions within households to mitigate climate change. However, the literature suggests that they may not be as effective as expected due to rebound effects. We use a dynamic economy–energy–environment computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of the Catalan economy to simulate the effect of 75 different actions on GDP and net CO2 emissions, over a 20-year period. We also examine how a carbon tax could counteract the carbon rebound effects. We find energy rebound effects ranging from 61.77% to 117.49% for voluntary energy conservation actions, depending on where the spending is redirected, with similar carbon rebound values. In our main scenarios, where energy savings are redirected to savings and all non-energy goods proportionally, the rebound is between 64.47% and 66.90%. We also find, for these scenarios, that a carbon tax of between 2.4 and 3.6 €/ton per percentage point of voluntary energy reduction would totally offset carbon rebound effects. These results suggest that voluntary actions in households need additional measures to provide the expected results in terms of energy use reduction and climate change mitigation.
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, and Wenhao Hu. 2020. “Analyzing carbon price policies using a general equilibrium model with household energy demand functions.” In Measuring Economic Growth and Productivity: Foundations, KLEMS Production Models, and Extensions, edited by Barbara Fraumeni. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Multi-sector general equilibrium models are used to simulate the effects of environmental policies on industry output and consumption at disaggregated levels. The specification of household demand in such models often use simpler forms such as CES or Linear Expenditure Systems since there are few estimates of more flexible systems. We estimate a 2-stage translog utility function that explicitly accounts for detailed energy expenditures to allow us to capture the price and income effects more accurately than these simpler forms. We incorporate this into a China growth model to simulate the effects of a carbon price to achieve the government targets for the Climate Change (Paris) agreements.

Final Manuscript in DASH.
An edited volume dedicated to Prof. Dale W. Jorgenson by his students and collaborators.

Jing Cao, Mun S Ho, and Rong Ma. 2020. “Analyzing carbon pricing policies using a general equilibrium model with production parameters estimated using firm data.” Energy Economics, 92, October, Pp. 104958. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Policy simulation results of Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models largely hinge on the choices of substitution elasticities among key input factors. Currently, most CGE models rely on the common elasticities estimated from aggregated data, such as the GTAP model elasticity parameters. Using firm level data, we apply the control function method to estimate CES production functions with capital, labor and energy inputs and find significant heterogeneity in substitution elasticities across different industries. Our capital-labor substitution elasticities are much lower than the GTAP values while our energy elasticities are higher. We then incorporate these estimated elasticities into a CGE model to simulate China's carbon pricing policies and compare with the results using GTAP parameters. Our less elastic K-L substitution lead to lower base case GDP growth, but our more elastic energy substitution lead to lower coal use and carbon emissions. In the carbon tax policy exercises, we find that our elasticities lead to easier reductions in coal use and carbon emissions.

Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Wenhao Hu, and Dale Jorgenson. 2020. “Effective labor supply and growth outlook in China.” China Economic Review, 61, June, Pp. 101398. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The falling projections of working-age population in China has led to predictions of much slower economic growth. We consider three mechanisms that could contribute to higher effective labor supply growth – further improvement in educational attainment due to cohort replacement and rising college enrollment, improvement in aggregate labor quality due to urbanization, and higher labor force participation due to later retirement. We find that these factors result in a projected growth rate of effective labor input of 0.40% for 2015-2030 compared to -0.60% for working age population. As a result, the projected growth rate of GDP will be 5.80% for 2015-2030 compared to 5.23% if these factors are ignored.
Richard Goettle, Mun S. Ho, and Peter Wilcoxen. 2020. “Emissions accounting and carbon tax incidence in CGE models: bottom-up versus top-down.” In Measuring Economic Growth and Productivity: Foundations, KLEMS Production Models, and Extensions, edited by Fraumeni, B, 1st ed. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Multi-sector general equilibrium models are the work-horses used to analyze the impact of carbon prices in climate policy discussions. Such models often have distinct industries to represent coal, liquid fuels, and gas production where the output over time is represented by quantity and price indexes. The industries that buy these fuels, however, do not use a common homogenous quantity (e.g., steam coal vs. metallurgical coal) and have distinct purchasing price indexes. In accounting for energy use or CO2 emissions, modelers choose to attach coefficients either bottom-up to a sector specific input index or top-down to an average output index and this choice has a direct bearing on the incidence of carbon taxation. We discuss how different accounting methods for the differences in prices can have a large effect on the simulated impact of carbon prices. We emphasize the importance for modelers to be explicit about their methods.
An edited volume dedicated to Prof. Dale W. Jorgenson by his students and collaborators.  Final Manuscript in DASH
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Wenhao Hu, and Dale W. Jorgensen. 2020. “Estimating flexible consumption functions for urban and rural households in China.” China Economic Review, 61, June, Pp. 101453. Publisher's VersionAbstract

There are few comprehensive studies of household consumption in China due to data restrictions. This prevents the calculation of inequality indices based on consumption. Secondly, this makes a comprehensive analysis of policies that affect consumption difficult; economy-wide models used for analysis often have to employ simple consumption forms with unit income elasticities. We estimate a translog demand system distinguished by demographic characteristics, giving price and income elasticities that should be useful for policy analysis. We estimate separate functions for urban and rural households using household expenditure data and detailed commodity prices (1995-2006). This allows future analysis of social welfare and inequality based on consumption to supplement existing studies based on income. To illustrate an application of the model, we project consumption composition based on projected prices, incomes and demographic changes – aging, education improvement and urbanization.

Mun Ho, Wolfgang Britz, Ruth Delzeit, Florian Leblanc, Roson Roberto, Franziska Schuenemann, and Matthias Weitzel. 2020. “Modelling consumption and constructing long-term baselines in final demand.” Journal of Global Economic Analysis, 5, 1, Pp. 63-108. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Modelling and projecting consumption, investment and government demand by detailed commodities in CGE models poses many data and methodological challenges. We review the state of knowledge of modelling consumption of commodities (price and income elasticities and demographics), as well as the historical trends that we should be able to explain. We then discuss the current approaches taken in CGE models to project the trends in demand at various levels of commodity disaggregation. We examine the pros and cons of the various approaches to adjust parameters over time or using functions of time and suggest a research agenda to improve modelling and projection. We compare projections out to 2050 using LES, CES and AIDADS functions in the same CGE model to illustrate the size of the differences. In addition, we briefly discuss the allocation of total investment and government demand to individual commodities.
Jing Cao, Mun S Ho, Wenhao Hu, and Dale W Jorgenson. 2020. “Urban household consumption in China: price, income and demographic effects.” Review of Development Economics, 152, 25 October, Pp. 810-833. Publisher's Version
Jaume Freire-González and Mun S. Ho. 2019. “Carbon taxes and the double dividend hypothesis in a recursive-dynamic CGE model for Spain.” Economic Systems Research, 31, 2, Pp. 267-284. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A carbon tax is potentially a policy that can reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate risks, at lowest economy-wide costs. We develop a dynamic CGE model for Spain to assess the economic and environmental effects of a carbon tax, and test the double dividend (DD) hypothesis. We simulate the impact of three carbon taxes: €10, €20 and €30 per ton of CO2. For each tax, four ‘revenue recycling’ scenarios are examined: a reduction of taxes on capital, on labor, on value-added tax, and a scenario in which revenues are not recycled. We find a DD for taxes of €10/ton and lower, within five to seven years of implementation. We estimate an annual CO2 emissions reduction of around 10% with this tax. Under some circumstances, the DD can be achieved for a tax of €20/ton. In any case, recycling revenues to cut pre-existing taxes reduces costs of imposing carbon taxes.
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Dale W. Jorgenson, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2019. “China’s emissions trading system and an ETS-carbon tax hybrid.” Energy Economics, 81, June, Pp. 741-753. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China is introducing a national carbon emission trading system (ETS), with details yet to be finalized. The ETS is expected to cover only the major emitters but it is often argued that a more comprehensive system will achieve the emission goals at lower cost. We first examine an ETS that covers both electricity and cement sectors and consider an ambitious cap starting in 2017 that will meet the official objective to reduce the carbon-GDP intensity by 60-65% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The two ETS-covered industries are compensated with an output-based subsidy to represent the intention to give free permits to the covered enterprises. We then consider a hybrid system where the non-ETS sectors pay a carbon tax and share in the CO2 reduction burden. Our simulations indicate that hybrid systems will achieve the same CO2 goals with lower permit prices and GDP losses. We also show how auctioning of the permits improves the efficiency of the ETS and the hybrid systems. Finally, we find that these CO2 control policies are progressive in that higher incomes households bear a bigger burden.
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Yating Li, Richard G. Newell, and William A. Pizer. 2019. “Chinese residential electricity consumption estimation and forecast using micro-data.” Resource and Energy Economics, 56, May, Pp. 6-27. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Based on econometric estimation using data from the Chinese Urban Household Survey, we develop a preferred forecast range of 85–143 percent growth in residential per capita electricity demand over 2009–2025. Our analysis suggests that per capita income growth drives a 43% increase, with the remainder due to an unexplained time trend. Roughly one-third of the income-driven demand comes from increases in the stock of specific major appliances, particularly AC units. The other two-thirds comes from non-specific sources of income-driven growth and is based on an estimated income elasticity that falls from 0.28 to 0.11 as income rises. While the stock of refrigerators is not projected to increase, we find that they contribute nearly 20 percent of household electricity demand. Alternative plausible time trend assumptions are responsible for the wide range of 85–143 percent. Meanwhile we estimate a price elasticity of demand of −0.7. These estimates point to carbon pricing and appliance efficiency policies that could substantially reduce demand.
Jing Cao, Mun S Ho, and Wenhao Hu. 2019. “Energy consumption of urban households in China.” China Economic Review, 58, 101343. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We estimate China urban household energy demand as part of a complete system of consumption demand so that it can be used in economy-wide models. This allows us to derive cross-price elasticities unlike studies which focus on one type of energy. We implement a two-stage approach and explicitly account for electricity, domestic fuels and transportation demand in the first stage and gasoline, coal, LPG and gas demand in the second stage. We find income inelastic demand for electricity and home energy, but the elasticity is higher than estimates in the rich countries. Demand for total transportation is income elastic. The price elasticity for electricity is estimated to be −0.5 and in the range of other estimates for China, and similar to long-run elasticities estimated for the U.S.
Govinda R. Timilsina, Jing Cao, and Mun S. Ho. 2018. “Carbon tax for achieving China's NDC: Simulations of some design features using a CGE model.” Climate Change Economics, 9, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China has set a goal of reducing its CO2 intensity of GDP by 60–65% from the 2005 level in 2030 as its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. While the government is considering series of market and nonmarket measures to achieve its target, this study assesses the economic consequences if the target were to meet through a market mechanism, carbon tax. We used a dynamic computable general equilibrium model of China for the analysis. The study shows that the level of carbon tax to achieve the NDC target would be different depending on its design features. An increasing carbon tax that starts at a small rate in 2015 and rises to a level to meet the NDC target in 2030 would cause smaller GDP loss than the carbon tax with a constant rate would do. The GDP loss due to the carbon tax would be smaller when the tax revenue is utilized to cut existing distortionary taxes than when it is transferred to households as a lump-sum rebate.
Jaume Freire-González and Mun S. Ho. 2018. “Environmental fiscal reform and the double dividend: evidence from a dynamic general equilibrium model.” Sustainability, 10, 2. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An environmental fiscal reform (EFR) represents a transition of a taxation system toward one based in environmental taxation, rather than on taxation of capital, labor, or consumption. It differs from an environmental tax reform (ETR) in that an EFR also includes a reform of subsidies which counteract environmental policy. This research details different ways in which an EFR is not only possible but also a good option that provides economic and environmental benefits. We have developed a detailed dynamic CGE model examining 101 industries and commodities in Spain, with an energy and an environmental extension comprising 31 pollutant emissions, in order to simulate the economic and environmental effects of an EFR. The reform focuses on 39 industries related to the energy, water, transport and waste sectors. We simulate an increase in taxes and a reduction on subsidies for these industries and at the same time we use new revenues to reduce labor, capital and consumption taxes. All revenue recycling options provide both economic and environmental benefits, suggesting that the “double dividend” hypothesis can be achieved. After three to four years after implementing an EFR, GDP is higher than the base case, hydrocarbons consumption declines and all analyzed pollutants show a reduction.
Xiaolin Guo, Mun Sing Ho, Liangzhi You, Jing Cao, Yu Fang, Taotao Tu, and Yang Hong. 2018. “Industrial water pollution discharge taxes in China: A multi-sector dynamic analysis.” Water, 10, 12, Pp. 1742. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We explore how water pollution policy reforms in China could reduce industrial wastewater pollution with minimum adverse impact on GDP growth. We use a multi-sector dynamic Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model, jointly developed by Harvard University and Tsinghua University, to examine the long-term impact of pollution taxes. A firm-level dataset of wastewater and COD discharge is compiled and aggregated to provide COD-intensities for 22 industrial sectors. We simulated the impact of 4 different sets of Pigovian taxes on the output of these industrial sectors, where the tax rate depends on the COD-output intensity. In the baseline low rate of COD tax, COD discharge is projected to rise from 36 million tons in 2018 to 48 million in 2030, while GDP grows at 6.9% per year. We find that raising the COD tax by 8 times will lower COD discharge by 1.6% by 2030, while a high 20-times tax will cut it by 4.0%. The most COD-intensive sectors—textile goods, apparel, and food products—have the biggest reduction in output and emissions. The additional tax revenue is recycled by cutting existing taxes, including taxes on profits, leading to higher investment. This shift from consumption to investment leads to a slightly higher GDP over time.
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, and Huifang Liang. 2016. “Household energy demand in urban China: Accounting for regional prices and rapid economic change.” The Energy Journal, 37. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Understanding the rapidly rising demand for energy in China is essential to efforts to reduce the country's energy use and environmental damage. In response to rising incomes and changing prices and demographics, household use of various fuels, electricity and gasoline has changed dramatically in China. In this paper, we estimate both income and price elasticities for various energy types using Chinese urban household micro-data collected by National bureau of Statistics, by applying a two-stage budgeting AIDS model. We find that total energy is price and income inelastic for all income groups after accounting for demographic and regional effects. Our estimated electricity price elasticity ranges from - 0.49 to -0.57, gas price elasticity ranges from -0.46 to -0.94, and gasoline price elasticity ranges from -0.85 to -0.94. Income elasticity for various energy types range from 0.57 to 0.94. Demand for coal is most price and income elastic among the poor, whereas gasoline demand is elastic for the rich.