Wednesday, November 28, 2012

World Energy Outlook 2012 and the Rebound Effect

I have been reading the 2012 World Energy Outlook from the IEA.  There is a special focus section of three chapters on the role that energy efficiency improvements could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report is generally very conservative on estimated uptake of alternative energy and, therefore, efficiency will be needed if there is to be any chance of staying within a 2C trajectory.

There is, however, only one mention of the rebound effect in this whole section in Box 10.2 on p316. Somehow they come up with an estimated rebound effect of only 9%. This is almost certainly an underestimate of the rebound effect. Typical estimates for direct rebound in consumer applications are around 30%, while on the production side and at the macro-level rebound effects can be much larger than this. The report does correctly note that:

"A significant portion of this could avoided by appropriate pricing policy"

A cap on carbon emissions will induce energy efficiency improvements as part of the solution. Though there will still be a rebound effect it can't result in the emissions reduction goal not being met. However, an efficiency policy without a carbon cap is likely to yield disappointing results in my opinion. With a carbon tax, rebound means that the carbon tax would have to be higher than it would be if there was no rebound, I think.

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