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The Rebound Effect: Some Questions Answered


  • Janine De Fence

    () (Department of Economics, University of Strathclyde)

  • Maggie Koerth-Baker

    () (Freelance Writer and Editor, Wiley & Sons.)

  • Karen Turner

    () (Division of Economics, University of Stirling)

  • Cathy Xin Cui

    () (Department of Economics, University of Strathclyde.)


Greenhouse gas (and other pollutant) emissions from energy use are now taken to be a problem both internationally and for individual national and regional governments. A number of mechanisms are being employed to reduce energy consumption demand as part of climate and energy policies internationally. A central policy focus is increased efficiency in the use of energy. However, the straightforward link between increased energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption has been questioned. This is due to the notion of the ‘rebound effect’. Rebound occurs when improvements in energy efficiency actually stimulate the direct and indirect demand for energy in production and/or consumption. It is triggered by the fact that an increase in the efficiency in the use of energy acts to reduce the implicit price of energy, or the price of effective energy services for each physical unit of energy used. Thus, it is an economic phenomenon. The rebound effect implies that measures taken to reduce energy use might lead to increases in carbon emissions, or at least not offset them to the extent anticipated. It is possible to distiguish between direct rebound effects in energy consumption in the activity where energy efficiency has increased, indirect rebound effects from income and substitutuion effects and economy-wide rebound effects (impacts on macro-level energy use). This paper attempts to provide a non-technical overview of work on the latter, carried out under an ESRC-funded project investigating the source and magnitude of econom-wide rebound effects from increased energy efficiency in the UK.

Suggested Citation

  • Janine De Fence & Maggie Koerth-Baker & Karen Turner & Cathy Xin Cui, 2011. "The Rebound Effect: Some Questions Answered," Working Papers 1107, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:str:wpaper:1107

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brookes, Len, 1990. "The greenhouse effect: the fallacies in the energy efficiency solution," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 199-201, March.
    2. Birol, Fatih & Keppler, Jan Horst, 2000. "Prices, technology development and the rebound effect," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 457-469, June.
    3. Herring, Horace, 1999. "Does energy efficiency save energy? The debate and its consequences," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 209-226, July.
    4. Schipper, Lee & Grubb, Michael, 2000. "On the rebound? Feedback between energy intensities and energy uses in IEA countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 367-388, June.
    5. J. Daniel Khazzoom, 1980. "Economic Implications of Mandated Efficiency in Standards for Household Appliances," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 21-40.
    6. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10972 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Druckman, Angela & Chitnis, Mona & Sorrell, Steve & Jackson, Tim, 2011. "Missing carbon reductions? Exploring rebound and backfire effects in UK households," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 3572-3581, June.
    8. Harty D. Saunders, 1992. "The Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate and Neoclassical Growth," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 131-148.
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    More about this item


    General equilibrium; energy efficiency; rebound effects; disinvestment.;

    JEL classification:

    • D57 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Input-Output Tables and Analysis
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models
    • R15 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Econometric and Input-Output Models; Other Methods
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy

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