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Energy Rebound as a Potential Threat to a Low-Carbon Future: Findings from a New Exergy-Based National-Level Rebound Approach

Author

Listed:
  • Paul E. Brockway

    () (Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK)

  • Harry Saunders

    () (The Breakthrough Institute and Decision Processes Incorporated, 2308 Saddleback Drive, Danville, CA 94506, USA)

  • Matthew K. Heun

    () (Engineering Department, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI 49546, USA)

  • Timothy J. Foxon

    () (Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
    Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand and Sussex Energy Group, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QE, UK)

  • Julia K. Steinberger

    () (Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK)

  • John R. Barrett

    () (Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK)

  • Steve Sorrell

    () (Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand and Sussex Energy Group, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QE, UK)

Abstract

150 years ago, Stanley Jevons introduced the concept of energy rebound: that anticipated energy efficiency savings may be “taken back” by behavioural responses. This is an important issue today because, if energy rebound is significant, this would hamper the effectiveness of energy efficiency policies aimed at reducing energy use and associated carbon emissions. However, empirical studies which estimate national energy rebound are rare and, perhaps as a result, rebound is largely ignored in energy-economy models and associated policy. A significant difficulty lies in the components of energy rebound assessed in empirical studies: most examine direct and indirect rebound in the static economy, excluding potentially significant rebound of the longer term structural response of the national economy. In response, we develop a novel exergy-based approach to estimate national energy rebound for the UK and US (1980–2010) and China (1981–2010). Exergy—as “available energy”—allows a consistent, thermodynamic-based metric for national-level energy efficiency. We find large energy rebound in China, suggesting that improvements in China’s energy efficiency may be associated with increased energy consumption (“backfire”). Conversely, we find much lower (partial) energy rebound for the case of the UK and US. These findings support the hypothesis that producer-sided economies (such as China) may exhibit large energy rebound, reducing the effectiveness of energy efficiency, unless other policy measures (e.g., carbon taxes) are implemented. It also raises the prospect we need to deploy renewable energy sources faster than currently planned, if (due to rebound) energy efficiency policies cannot deliver the scale of energy reduction envisaged to meet climate targets.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul E. Brockway & Harry Saunders & Matthew K. Heun & Timothy J. Foxon & Julia K. Steinberger & John R. Barrett & Steve Sorrell, 2017. "Energy Rebound as a Potential Threat to a Low-Carbon Future: Findings from a New Exergy-Based National-Level Rebound Approach," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(1), pages 1-24, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jeners:v:10:y:2017:i:1:p:51-:d:87181
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh & Arild Angelsen & Andrea Baranzini & W.J. Wouter Botzen & Stefano Carattini & Stefan Drews & Tessa Dunlop & Eric Galbraith & Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Richard B. Howarth & Em, 2018. "Parallel tracks towards a global treaty on carbon pricing," Working Papers 2018/12, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
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    10. Colmenares, Gloria & Löschel, Andreas & Madlener, Reinhard, 2019. "The rebound effect and its representation in energy and climate models," CAWM Discussion Papers 106, University of Münster, Center of Applied Economic Research Münster (CAWM).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    constant elasticity of substitution (CES) function; aggregate production function (APF); energy efficiency; energy rebound; exergy efficiency; exergy; macroeconomic rebound; energy policy;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy
    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • Q47 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy Forecasting
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • Q49 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Other

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