Delving Further into the Rebound Effect

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green cfl light

Following up on my post about the rebound effect & Jevons paradox, someone commenting on that post added a lot of useful information/ideas.

One of the key points was that you must understand where energy demand comes from before you make any claim that greater energy efficiency is going to result in more demand and greater energy usage. If demand is saturated — in other words, if there is essentially no way to increase demand because there is no way to increase need — of course there is not going to be a large increase in demand and usage from an increase in efficiency.

Using lighting as an example, the commenter demonstrated how this works:

In the case of light bulbs, it is clear that the main benefit is light. If ones home is sufficiently lit up, that particular market for light is saturated — so lower cost (and or / longer bulb life) will win market share (CFs displace incandescent) — great energy savings is the main benefit of CF — value is increased — the light market is still saturated, so not much increased demand for light — the new demand is for efficiency (not light).

Thinking of other ways of improving efficiency around the house, it seems that this would also apply. For example, if you make sure to throughly insulate and seal your home, you will save a ton of energy but that won’t make you want to heat or cool the house more (you’re, presumably, already keeping it at the temperature you feel comfortable in)… clear?

Of course, not all technologies or uses of energy apply here, but a ton of them do. Increasing energy efficiency is a good thing is the takeaway point again.

(And if you are increasing efficiency in order to help the environment, I would think that even after buying energy-efficient appliances or devices, you would still look to decrease use… but maybe I’m a little crazy.)

Any more thoughts on this topic?

Photo via jeancliclac

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