Researcher Profile

Professional headshot of Karen L. Palmer

Karen L. Palmer

Senior Fellow and Director, Future of Power Initiative

Topics of Interest

Karen Palmer has been a researcher at Resources for the Future for over 25 years. Dr. Palmer specializes in the economics of environmental regulation and public utility regulation, particularly on issues at the intersection of climate policy and the electricity sector. Her work seeks to improve the design of incentive-based environmental and technology regulations that influence the electric utility sector and to help inform the ongoing transition of the electricity sector. To these ends, she explores new designs for policies targeting carbon emissions, analyzes efficient ways to promote use of renewable sources of electricity and energy efficiency and investigates market and regulatory reforms to pave the way for long-term de-carbonization of electricity supply and electrification of the energy economy. She is co-author of the book, Alternating Currents:  Electricity Markets and Public Policy, published by RFF Press. 

In the 1990s, Dr. Palmer spent six months as a visiting economist in the Office of Economic Policy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission where she worked on wholesale market design in the nascent ISO markets.  She has served on two National Research Council study panels, one on New Source Review for stationary sources and a second on the future of electricity from renewables. She serves on the Environmental Advisory Council to the New York ISO, the Advisory Council to the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making at Carnegie Mellon University, and the Research Advisory Board to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. She is the recipient of the Public Utility Research Center’s 2015 Distinguished Service Award and was elected as a Fellow of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in 2018.  Her published papers have appeared in a number of academic journals including the American Economic Review, the RAND Journal of Economics, The Journal of Political Economy, The Energy Journal, and The Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Palmer is in RFF’s Energy and Climate Program.


PhD in economics, Boston College, 1990
BA in economics, Brandeis University, 1981

Recent Work

See all work by Karen L. Palmer