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Individual Time Preferences and Energy Efficiency

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  • Richard G. Newell
  • Juha V. Siikamaki

Abstract

We examine the role of individual discount rates in energy efficiency decisions using evidence from an extensive survey of U.S. homeowners to elicit preferences for energy efficiency and cash flows over time. We find considerable heterogeneity in individual discount rates. We also find that individual time preferences systematically influence willingness to invest in energy efficiency, as measured through product choices, required payback periods, and energy efficiency tax credit claims. Individual discount rate heterogeneity is in turn significantly related to characteristics of the individual and their household, including their financial situation. Individuals with less education, larger households, low income, and low credit scores had systematically higher discount rates, as did black, non-Hispanic respondents. Our findings highlight the importance of individual discount rates to understanding energy efficiency investments, the energy-efficiency gap, and policy evaluation.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard G. Newell & Juha V. Siikamaki, 2015. "Individual Time Preferences and Energy Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 20969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20969
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    1. Steffen Andersen & Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau & E. Rutström, 2009. "Elicitation using multiple price list formats," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(3), pages 365-366, September.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Maribeth Coller & Melonie Williams, 1999. "Eliciting Individual Discount Rates," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 2(2), pages 107-127, December.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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