Does Energy Efficiency Reduce Emissions and Peak Demand? A Case Study of 50 Years of Space Heating in Melbourne
This paper examines the relationship between space heating energy efficiency and two related but distinct measures; greenhouse mitigation, and peak demand. The historic role of Melbourneâ€™s space heating provides an opportunity to assess whether improvements in energy efficiency lead to sustained reductions in energy consumption or whether rebound factors â€œtake backâ€ efficiency gains in the long run. Despite significant and sustained improvements in appliance efficiency, and the thermal efficiency of new building fabrics, the per-capita heating energy consumption has remained remarkably stable over the past 50 years. Space heating efficiency is bound up with notions of comfort, sufficiency and lifestyle, and the short-run gains from efficiency become incorporated into a new set of norms. It is this evolution of cultural norms that reconciles the contradiction between the short-run gains from efficiency measures, with the efficiency rebound that becomes evident over the long-term. The related, but distinct peak demand measure can be influenced by efficiency measures, but energy efficiency measures will not alter the requirement for large-scale conventional energy to provide affordable and reliable winter heating.
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