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The Low Carbon Economy Ltd

15 May 2009 03:05:02

Rebound effect could undermine energy efficiency drive

Rebound effect could undermine energy efficiency drive
Global policy on climate change should take human behaviour into account or else energy efficiency schemes may not prove to be as effective as hoped.

According to the Guardian, a team of economists from Cambridge University believe that improvements in resource efficiency are often undermined by resultant changes in consumer behaviour.

If energy becomes cheaper and cleaner, then it stands to reason that consumer demand for it will increase; a process researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR) call the 'rebound effect'.

A new study from the team has concluded that these behavioural changes could cancel out 31 percent of potential global energy savings by 2020 and 52 percent by 2030, the newspaper reported.

"The green stimulus packages being implemented to tackle the financial crisis in several countries all include investments in energy efficiency," 4CMR's Terry Baker told the Guardian.

"They may be a lot less effective at reducing energy use than expected because of the rebound effect, especially in developing countries."

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, added that the rebound effect suggests technology will not be enough to tackle climate change without including taxes and regulation.

As a concept, the rebound effect can be dated back to William Stanley Jevons.

He posited in his 19th-century book The Coal Question that the invention of a more efficient steam engine would increase coal's viability as an energy source and ultimately increase demand even as the amount of coal required for tasks fell.



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