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Does the Energy-Efficiency Paradox Exist? Technological Progress and Uncertainty

  • Daan van Soest

    ()

  • Erwin Bulte

We explain why firms may choose not to undertake investments inenergy-saving technologies that appear profitable from a net presentvalue perspective. As future technological advances are inherentlyuncertain and investments in new technology are, at least partly,irreversible, it may ``pay'' to postpone investments in energy savingand wait for the arrival of improved varieties. This insight casts doubton the existence of so-called ``low hanging fruits in energy saving''(although we do not wish to deny that organisational failures may alsobe important). Failure to appreciate the underlying stochasticity oftechnological progress may obscure the insight that there is value inwaiting, and costs involved in terminating the option to invest. Theappetite for low-hanging fruits will be less when these costs areincorporated in the analysis. We demonstrate that the effect of thearrival rate of new technologies on the adoption lag for a rational firmis ambiguous. The same holds for the effect of the expected ``jump'' inefficiency of new technologies. Government policies aimed at enhancingthe adoption of new technologies through stimulation of R&D maytherefore be counterproductive. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

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Article provided by European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in its journal Environmental and Resource Economics.

Volume (Year): 18 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 101-112

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Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:18:y:2001:i:1:p:101-112
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  1. Farzin, Y. H. & Huisman, K. J. M. & Kort, P. M., 1998. "Optimal timing of technology adoption," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 779-799, May.
  2. Sanstad, Alan H. & Howarth, Richard B., 1994. "`Normal' markets, market imperfections and energy efficiency," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(10), pages 811-818, October.
  3. Gabel H. Landis & Sinclair-Desgagne Bernard, 1993. "Managerial Incentives and Environmental Compliance," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 229-240, May.
  4. Metcalf, Gilbert E., 1994. "Economics and rational conservation policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(10), pages 819-825, October.
  5. Stephen Decanio, 1994. "Agency and Control Problems in US Corporations: The Case of Energy-efficient Investment Projects," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 105-124.
  6. Sanstad, Alan H & Blumstein, Carl & Stoft, Steven E, 1995. "How high are option values in energy-efficiency investments?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(9), pages 739-743, September.
  7. Richard B. Howarth & Alan H. Sanstad, 1995. "Discount Rates And Energy Efficiency," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(3), pages 101-109, 07.
  8. Hassett, Kevin A. & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 1993. "Energy conservation investment : Do consumers discount the future correctly?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 710-716, June.
  9. de Almeida, Edmar Luiz Fagundes, 1998. "Energy efficiency and the limits of market forces: The example of the electric motor market in France," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(8), pages 643-653, July.
  10. DeCanio, Stephen J, 1998. "The efficiency paradox: bureaucratic and organizational barriers to profitable energy-saving investments," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 441-454, April.
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