IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/oup/renvpo/v8y2014i1p18-38.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Bridging the Energy Efficiency Gap: Policy Insights from Economic Theory and Empirical Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Kenneth Gillingham
  • Karen Palmer

Abstract

Despite several decades of government policies to promote energy efficiency, estimates of the costs and benefits of such policies remain controversial. At the heart of the controversy is whether there is an "energy efficiency gap," whereby consumers and firms fail to make seemingly positive net present value energy saving investments. High implicit discount rates, undervaluation of future fuel savings, and negative cost energy efficiency measures have all been discussed as evidence of the existence of a gap. We review explanations for an energy efficiency gap including reasons why the size of the gap may be overstated, neoclassical explanations for a gap, and recent evidence from behavioral economics that has potential to help us understand why a gap could exist. Our review raises fundamental questions about traditional welfare analysis, but we find the alternatives offered in the literature to be far from ready for use in policy analysis. Nevertheless, we offer several suggestions for policymakers and for future economic research. (JEL: Q38, Q41) Copyright 2014, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth Gillingham & Karen Palmer, 2014. "Bridging the Energy Efficiency Gap: Policy Insights from Economic Theory and Empirical Evidence," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 8(1), pages 18-38, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:8:y:2014:i:1:p:18-38
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/reep/ret021
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 121(4), pages 1311-1346.
    2. Robert Sugden, 2005. "Coping with Preference Anomalies in Cost–Benefit Analysis: A Market-Simulation Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(1), pages 129-160, September.
    3. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    4. Hausman, Jerry A & Joskow, Paul L, 1982. "Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Appliance Efficiency Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 220-225, May.
    5. Erin Baker, 2012. "Option Value and the Diffusion of Energy Efficient Products," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4).
    6. Gilbert E. Metcalf & Kevin A. Hassett, 1999. "Measuring The Energy Savings From Home Improvement Investments: Evidence From Monthly Billing Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 516-528, August.
    7. Greene, David L, 1991. "Short-run Pricing Strategies to Increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(1), pages 101-114, January.
    8. Dumagan, Jesus C. & Mount, Timothy D., 1993. "Welfare effects of improving end-use efficiency: Theory and application to residential electricity demand," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 175-201, June.
    9. Stefano DellaVigna, 2009. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 315-372, June.
    10. Frank J. Convery, 2011. "Reflections--Energy Efficiency Literature for Those in the Policy Process," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(1), pages 172-191, Winter.
    11. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2013. "Energy Conservation “Nudges” And Environmentalist Ideology: Evidence From A Randomized Residential Electricity Field Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 680-702, June.
    12. Hunt Allcott & Michael Greenstone, 2012. "Is There an Energy Efficiency Gap?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    13. David S. Loughran and Jonathan Kulick, 2004. "Demand-Side Management and Energy Efficiency in the United States," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 19-44.
    14. Paul L. Joskow & Donald B. Marron, 1992. "What Does a Negawatt Really Cost? Evidence from Utility Conservation Programs," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 41-74.
    15. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
    16. Hossain Tanjim & Morgan John, 2006. "...Plus Shipping and Handling: Revenue (Non) Equivalence in Field Experiments on eBay," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-30, January.
    17. V. Smith & Eric Moore, 2010. "Behavioral Economics and Benefit Cost Analysis," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(2), pages 217-234, June.
    18. Turrentine, Thomas S. & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2007. "Car buyers and fuel economy?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 1213-1223, February.
    19. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
    20. Herbert A. Simon, 1955. "A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 69(1), pages 99-118.
    21. repec:cup:judgdm:v:1:y:2006:i::p:23-32 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Austin, David & Dinan, Terry, 2005. "Clearing the air: The costs and consequences of higher CAFE standards and increased gasoline taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 562-582, November.
    23. Parry, Ian W.H. & Evans, David & Oates, Wallace E., 2014. "Are energy efficiency standards justified?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 104-125.
    24. Jaffe, Adam B. & Stavins, Robert N., 1994. "The energy paradox and the diffusion of conservation technology," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 91-122, May.
    25. Greene, David L. & Patterson, Philip D. & Singh, Margaret & Li, Jia, 2005. "Feebates, rebates and gas-guzzler taxes: a study of incentives for increased fuel economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 757-775, April.
    26. Toshi H. Arimura, Shanjun Li, Richard G. Newell, and Karen Palmer, 2012. "Cost-Effectiveness of Electricity Energy Efficiency Programs," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
    27. Greene, David L. & Patterson, Philip D. & Singh, Margaret & Li, Jia, 2005. "Corrigendum to "Feebates, rebates and gas-guzzler taxes: a study of incentives for increased fuel economy" [Energy Policy 33 (2005) 757-775]," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(14), pages 1901-1902, September.
    28. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, August.
    29. Grant D. Jacobsen & Matthew J. Kotchen, 2013. "Are Building Codes Effective at Saving Energy? Evidence from Residential Billing Data in Florida," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 34-49, March.
    30. Anin Aroonruengsawat, Maximilian Auffhammer, and Alan H. Sanstad, 2012. "The Impact of State Level Building Codes on Residential Electricity Consumption," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    31. Ernst Fehr & Antonio Rangel, 2011. "Neuroeconomic Foundations of Economic Choice--Recent Advances," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 3-30, Fall.
    32. Brennan, Timothy J., 2011. "Energy Efficiency Policy: Surveying the Puzzles," RFF Working Paper Series dp-11-27, Resources for the Future.
    33. Steven E. Stoft, 1995. "The Economics of Conserved-Energy "Supply" Curves," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 109-137.
    34. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    35. Anderson, Soren T. & Newell, Richard G., 2004. "Information programs for technology adoption: the case of energy-efficiency audits," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 27-50, March.
    36. Johnson, Kenneth C., 2006. "Feebates: An effective regulatory instrument for cost-constrained environmental policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(18), pages 3965-3976, December.
    37. 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.
    38. Hunt Allcott & Nathan Wozny, 2014. "Gasoline Prices, Fuel Economy, and the Energy Paradox," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(5), pages 779-795, December.
    39. Helfand, Gloria & Wolverton, Ann, 2011. "Evaluating the Consumer Response to Fuel Economy: A Review of the Literature," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 5(2), pages 103-146, May.
    40. Tsvetanov, Tsvetan & Segerson, Kathleen, 2013. "Re-evaluating the role of energy efficiency standards: A behavioral economics approach," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 347-363.
    41. Mulder, Peter & de Groot, Henri L. F. & Hofkes, Marjan W., 2003. "Explaining slow diffusion of energy-saving technologies; a vintage model with returns to diversity and learning-by-using," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 105-126, February.
    42. Nicola Lacetera & Devin G. Pope & Justin R. Sydnor, 2012. "Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2206-2236, August.
    43. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    44. Huberman, Gur, 2001. "Familiarity Breeds Investment," The Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 14(3), pages 659-680.
    45. Jason F. Shogren & Laura O. Taylor, 2008. "On Behavioral-Environmental Economics," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 26-44, Winter.
    46. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
    47. Jeffrey A. Dubin & Allen K. Miedema & Ram V. Chandran, 1986. "Price Effects of Energy-Efficient Technologies: A Study of Residential Demand for Heating and Cooling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(3), pages 310-325, Autumn.
    48. 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.
    49. Bento, Antonio M. & Li, Shanjun & Roth, Kevin, 2012. "Is there an energy paradox in fuel economy? A note on the role of consumer heterogeneity and sorting bias," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 44-48.
    50. Nic Rivers & Mark Jaccard, 2011. "Electric Utility Demand Side Management in Canada," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 93-116.
    51. Maximilian Auffhammer & Carl Blumstein & Meredith Fowlie, 2008. "Demand-Side Management and Energy Efficiency Revisited," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 91-104.
    52. Joseph Eto & Edward Vine & Leslie Shown & Richard Sonnenblick & Chris Payne, 1996. "The Total Cost and Measured Performance of Utility-Sponsored Energy Efficiency Programs," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 31-51.
    53. Metcalf, Gilbert E., 1994. "Economics and rational conservation policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(10), pages 819-825, October.
    54. Jerry A. Hausman, 1979. "Individual Discount Rates and the Purchase and Utilization of Energy-Using Durables," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 33-54, Spring.
    55. Turrentine, Tom & Kurani, Kenneth S, 2007. "Car buyers and fuel economy?," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt56x845v4, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    56. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, 1998. "The Effects of the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency Standards in the US," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 1-33, March.
    57. Kenneth Gillingham, Matthew Harding, and David Rapson, 2012. "Split Incentives in Residential Energy Consumption," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
    58. Train, Kenneth, 1985. "Discount rates in consumers' energy-related decisions: A review of the literature," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 10(12), pages 1243-1253.
    59. Andrew N. Kleit, 2004. "Impacts of Long-Range Increases in the Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standard," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(2), pages 279-294, April.
    60. Ian Ayres & Sophie Raseman & Alice Shih, 2009. "Evidence from Two Large Field Experiments that Peer Comparison Feedback Can Reduce Residential Energy Usage," NBER Working Papers 15386, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    61. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
    62. Jaffe, Adam B. & Stavins, Robert N., 1994. "The energy-efficiency gap What does it mean?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(10), pages 804-810, October.
    63. Lucas W. Davis, 2008. "Durable goods and residential demand for energy and water: evidence from a field trial," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(2), pages 530-546, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Todd D. Gerarden & Richard G. Newell & Robert N. Stavins, 2017. "Assessing the Energy-Efficiency Gap," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1486-1525, December.
    2. Hunt Allcott & Michael Greenstone, 2012. "Is There an Energy Efficiency Gap?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    3. Allcott, Hunt & Mullainathan, Sendhil & Taubinsky, Dmitry, 2014. "Energy policy with externalities and internalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 72-88.
    4. Papineau, Maya, 2017. "Setting the standard? A framework for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of building energy standards," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 63-76.
    5. Samdruk Dharshing & Stefanie Lena Hille, 2017. "The Energy Paradox Revisited: Analyzing the Role of Individual Differences and Framing Effects in Information Perception," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 40(4), pages 485-508, December.
    6. Giraudet, Louis-Gaëtan, 2020. "Energy efficiency as a credence good: A review of informational barriers to energy savings in the building sector," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    7. Pedro Linares & Xavier Labandeira, 2010. "Energy Efficiency: Economics And Policy," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(3), pages 573-592, July.
    8. Richard G. Newell & Juha Siikamäki, 2014. "Nudging Energy Efficiency Behavior: The Role of Information Labels," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(4), pages 555-598.
    9. Lucas W. Davis & Alan Fuchs & Paul J. Gertler, 2012. "Cash for Coolers," NBER Working Papers 18044, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Fischbacher, Urs & Schudy, Simeon & Teyssier, Sabrina, 2021. "Heterogeneous preferences and investments in energy saving measures," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    11. Ramos, A. & Gago, A. & Labandeira, X. & Linares, P., 2015. "The role of information for energy efficiency in the residential sector," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(S1), pages 17-29.
    12. Louis-Gaëtan Giraudet, 2018. "Energy efficiency as a credence good: A review of informational barriers to building energy savings," Working Papers 2018.07, FAERE - French Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.
    13. Schleich, Joachim & Gassmann, Xavier & Faure, Corinne & Meissner, Thomas, 2016. "Making the implicit explicit: A look inside the implicit discount rate," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 321-331.
    14. Häckel, Björn & Pfosser, Stefan & Tränkler, Timm, 2017. "Explaining the energy efficiency gap - Expected Utility Theory versus Cumulative Prospect Theory," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 414-426.
    15. Laura Abrardi, 2019. "Behavioral barriers and the energy efficiency gap: a survey of the literature," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 46(1), pages 25-43, March.
    16. Anna Alberini, Will Gans, and Charles Towe, 2016. "Free Riding, Upsizing, and Energy Efficiency Incentives in Maryland Homes," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    17. Gerarden, Todd D. & Newell, Richard G. & Stavins, Robert N. & Stowe, Robert C., 2015. "An Assessment of the Energy-Efficiency Gap and Its Implications for Climate Change Policy," Climate Change and Sustainable Development 202116, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    18. Suter, Jordan F. & Shammin, Md Rumi, 2013. "Returns to residential energy efficiency and conservation measures: A field experiment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 551-561.
    19. Greene, David L. & Evans, David H. & Hiestand, John, 2013. "Survey evidence on the willingness of U.S. consumers to pay for automotive fuel economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1539-1550.
    20. Greene, David L., 2011. "Uncertainty, loss aversion, and markets for energy efficiency," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 608-616, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q38 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy (includes OPEC Policy)
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:8:y:2014:i:1:p:18-38. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Oxford University Press (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aereeea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.