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Energy Efficiency Policy: Surveying the Puzzles


  • Brennan, Timothy J.

    () (Resources for the Future)


Promoting energy efficiency (EE) has become a leading policy response to greenhouse gas emissions, energy dependence, and the cost of new generators and transmission lines. Such policies present numerous puzzles. Electricity prices below marginal production costs could warrant EE policies if EE and energy are substitutes, but they will not be substitutes if the energy price is sufficiently high. Using EE savings to meet renewable energy requirements can dramatically increase the marginal cost of electricity. Rejecting “rationality” of consumer energy choices raises doubts regarding cost–benefit analysis when demand curves may not reveal willingness to pay. Decoupling to guarantee constant profit regardless of use contradicts findings that incentive-based mechanisms outperform cost-of-service regulation. Regulators may implement EE policies to exercise buyer-side market power against generators, increasing consumer welfare but reducing overall economic performance. Encouraging utilities to take over potentially competitive EE contradicts policies to separate competitive from monopoly enterprises.

Suggested Citation

  • Brennan, Timothy J., 2011. "Energy Efficiency Policy: Surveying the Puzzles," Discussion Papers dp-11-27, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-11-27

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brennan, Timothy J., 2011. "Energy efficiency and renewables policies: Promoting efficiency or facilitating monopsony?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 3954-3965, July.
    2. Kenneth Gillingham & Richard G. Newell & Karen Palmer, 2009. "Energy Efficiency Economics and Policy," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 597-620, September.
    3. George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
    4. Brennan, Timothy J., 2010. "Optimal energy efficiency policies and regulatory demand-side management tests: How well do they match?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 3874-3885, August.
    5. Lenard, Thomas M., 2009. "Renewable Electricity Standards, Energy Efficiency, and Cost-Effective Climate-Change Policy," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 22(8), pages 55-64, October.
    6. Timothy Brennan, 2010. "Decoupling in electric utilities," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 49-69, August.
    7. Timothy J. Brennan, 2004. "Market Failures in Real-Time Metering," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 119-139, September.
    8. Brennan, Timothy J, 1990. "Cross-Subsidization and Cost Misallocation by Regulated Monopolists," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 37-51, March.
    9. Beard, T Randolph & Kaserman, David L & Mayo, John W, 2001. "Regulation, Vertical Integration and Sabotage," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 319-333, September.
    10. Ian W. H. Parry & Margaret Walls & Winston Harrington, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(2), pages 373-399, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Palmer, Karen L. & Grausz, Samuel & Beasley, Blair & Brennan, Timothy J., 2013. "Putting a floor on energy savings: Comparing state energy efficiency resource standards," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 43-57.
    2. Brennan, Timothy J. & Palmer, Karen L., 2013. "Energy efficiency resource standards: Economics and policy," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 58-68.
    3. Schmid, Eva & Pahle, Michael & Knopf, Brigitte, 2013. "Renewable electricity generation in Germany: A meta-analysis of mitigation scenarios," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1151-1163.
    4. Panzone, Luca A., 2013. "Saving money vs investing money: Do energy ratings influence consumer demand for energy efficient goods?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 51-63.
    5. Tanaka, Makoto & Chen, Yihsu, 2013. "Market power in renewable portfolio standards," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 187-196.

    More about this item


    energy efficiency; energy policy; decoupling; monopsony; vertical integration;

    JEL classification:

    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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