Calibrating Constant Elasticity of Substitution Technologies to Bottom-up Cost Estimates

Edward J. Balistreri, Maxwell Brown
March 2022  [22-WP 632]

Download Full Text

Suggested citation:

Balistreri, E.J. and M. Brown. 2022. "Calibrating Constant Elasticity of Substitution Technologies to Bottom-up Cost Estimates." Working paper 22-WP 632. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


We propose a method for calibrating an industry-level technology to engineering (bottom-up) estimates with a particular focus on abatement opportunities. As a demonstration, substitution elasticities across inputs are adjusted in the nested cost function for the electricity sector to best fit a target marginal abatement cost (MAC) curve derived from engineering assessments of available technologies. This approach is unique because the elasticities are optimized over an entire relevant range of the bottom-up estimates, whereas other techniques use information local to point estimates under little or no abatement. In the context of fitting to a given MAC we evaluate alternative nesting structures and find that, while complexity in nesting improves the fit, even relatively simple nesting structures can reasonably approximate the target MAC. In our example, focused on the electricity sector, we find standard elasticities adopted in top-down models moderately overstate abatement costs relative to the engineering targets. This conclusion, however, is sensitive to our assumption about output-intensity abatement and consumer price responsiveness, both of which are not delineated in engineering estimates.