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An evolutionary perspective on the economics of energy consumption: the crucial role of habits

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  • Kevin Maréchal

Abstract

The climate change issue imposes us not only to change the way we produce and convert energy but also to modify current energy consumption patterns. A substantial body of literature has shown that our behaviour is often guided by habits. The existence of habits - not fully conscious forms of behaviour - is important as it contradicts rational choice theory. Their presence thus calls for the setting of new instruments as it is difficult to expect consumers to be capable of exercising control over their consumption of energy in reaction to given incentives. This is further increased in our perspective where the current carbon-based Socio-Technical Systems constraints and shapes consumers’ choices through structural, cultural, social and institutional forces. Habits being potentially “counterintentional”, they can be considered as a form of behavioural lock-in that may explain continued increase of energy consumption. Policies should thus specifically address the performance context of habits.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles in its series Working Papers CEB with number 08-012.RS.

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Length: 22 p.
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published by:
Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:08-012

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Keywords: Habits; Evolutionary Economics; Energy consumption; Lock-in;

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  1. Cowan, Robin, 1990. "Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study in Technological Lock-in," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(03), pages 541-567, September.
  2. Kurt Dopfer, 2004. "The economic agent as rule maker and rule user: Homo Sapiens Oeconomicus," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 177-195, 06.
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Cited by:
  1. Kevin Maréchal & Hélène Aubaret-Joachain & Jean-Paul Ledant, 2008. "The influence of Economics on agricultural systems: an evolutionary and ecological perspective," Working Papers CEB 08-028.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Jeroen Bergh, 2011. "Environmental Policy Theory Given Bounded Rationality and Other-regarding Preferences," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 49(2), pages 263-304, June.

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