Energizing the Energy Policy Process: The Impact of Evaluation

By Roberta W. Walsh; John G. Heilman | Go to book overview

4 Cost-Effectiveness Enlightenment: Which Is the Right Test? 1

Patricia Herman and John H. Chamberlin

Editors' Note: This chapter clearly articulates one of the major roles evaluation can play in the policy process: to clarify the alternative normative stances that can inform policy design and assessment. The issue here is who gets what, when they get it, and what values drive the decision to give preferences to the interests of some groups at the potential expense of others. The role of evaluation in these matters is central. It is the evaluators who, as Patricia Herman has commented, spend all the hours drawing up the supply and demand graphs and calculating the areas of all the little spaces between the curves. Evaluators design and implement research projects to test policies and programs against the different criteria set forth in this chapter. It is the evaluators who will explain the meaning of what they have done to the various parties to policy decisions, including public utility regulators. The impact of evaluation on policy choices thus takes on an element of synthesis. This theme is reflected in the chapter's conclusion that there is no one best test. In political terms, each criterion reflects a value and a point of view that are ignored at the risk of sacrificing accountability.

Ever since its beginnings, demand-side management (DSM) has evoked arguments concerning the appropriate cost-effectiveness criteria in the selection of programs. After more than a decade, the issue is still being argued in forums ranging from academic journals to regulatory hearing rooms. The argument is generally made on efficiency grounds: Which test promotes the selection of program that will result

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