The Rebound-Effect: Threat for Energy and Climate Policy Goals? An Empirical Analysis for Germany

Is the increase of energy efficiency an effective tool to reach energy and climate policy goals? Or does this increase of the energy efficiency only lead to an increase in consumption and, in consequence, to an increase in energy consumption, thus, only partly or not at all meeting the expected energy savings? What are the causes of such rebound effects and which measures can be found to counteract these effects?

REBOUND, a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), aims at answering these questions with focus on private households in Germany. The project mainly focuses on the rebound effects. They show that actual energy savings resulting from measures to increase energy efficiency by to changes in behaviour can be lower than the expected savings calculated by engineers.

For instance, people tend to use new fuel-efficient cars more often because the fuel costs per kilometre are lower than those of less efficient cars. It is also possible that people heat more rooms after having insulated their house. Moreover, it is possible that savings in energy costs are used for other energy consuming activities, i.e. the original energy savings are compensated for in other areas. The causes of rebound effects are not well researched yet. Are they mere price and income effects or do sociological and socio-psychological influencing factor, e.g. does the influence of norms or individual beliefs play a role? Especially these sociological and socio-psychological causes could be good approaches for the development of measures to minimise rebound effects. Previous projects on sustainable consumption have indicated that, in particular, lifestyle concepts are prolific approaches for analysing sociological and socio-psychological causes of specific (non-)sustainable consumption patterns.

REBOUND aims at a better understanding of the causes of rebound effects in private households, thus, contributing to the efficient design of energy and climate policy. Moreover, possible rebound effects will be analysed with special focus on the sociological and socio-psychological dimensions. In addition to economically influencing factors, sociological and socio-psychological aspects will be analysed. During the project duration, the research results will be presented at scientific conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals in various fields.