Missing the target? To what extent does the Rebound Effect cause a shortfall in expected carbon reductions?
Angela Druckman, University of Surrey, Mona Chitnis, University of Surrey, Steve Sorrell, University of Sussex, and Tim Jackson, University of Surrey
Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (SLRG)
Household energy efficiency and abatement actions are widely advocated in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But to what extent do these measures live up to expectations? Due to a phenomenon known as the ‘Rebound Effect’, carbon reductions estimated by simple engineering calculations are frequently not realised in practice. For example, installation of loft insulation will most certainly increase the thermal efficiency of homes. But this will free up money that otherwise would be spent by householders on energy bills: this money may then be spent on heating houses to higher temperatures, buying extra furniture, or, say, flying on vacations. Alternatively it may be put into household savings. All of these options give rise to carbon emissions, thus the total carbon saved may be less than predicted. Indeed, in some instances, emissions may even increase – this being known as ‘Backfire’. In this talk I will present estimates of the extent of the Rebound Effect under a range of assumptions. The talk will conclude with a discussion concerning the policy implications of the findings, and the conditions under which Rebound and Backfire can be minimised.