On the rebound? Feedback between energy intensities and energy uses in IEAcountries

L. Schipper et M. Grubb, On the rebound? Feedback between energy intensities and energy uses in IEAcountries, ENERG POLIC, 28(6-7), 2000, pp. 367-388
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Social Work & Social Policy","Environmental Engineering & Energy
Journal title
ISSN journal
0301-4215 → ACNP
Year of publication
367 - 388
SICI code
The interaction or feedback between energy efficiencies or energy intensiti es and energy use has long been the topic of debate. Some have argued that energy efficiency improvements, by reducing energy intensities and therefor e lowering the cost of energy services, would lead to 'rebound' effects off setting much or all of any initial savings in energy. In this paper we anal yse historical data on energy use, efficiency and pricing in different sect ors to try and identify 'rebounds'. For the period of our data (since about 1970) we show that key measures of activity (car use, manufacturing output and structure, house area, etc.) have changed little in response to change s in energy prices or efficiency, instead continuing their long-term evolut ion relative to CDP or other driving factors. While our analysis cannot dis entangle more macro-level economic feedbacks in a detailed way, we show ind irectly that such effects also appear to have been small over the 1970s and 1980s. Overall, our analysis of disaggregated sectoral and subsectoral ene rgy-use and activity trends in a variety of IEA economies, suggests that an y feedback effect is small compared to both the effects on energy use of ch anges in energy intensities and overall economic growth. We conclude that most of the improvements in energy efficiencies led to red uctions in energy intensities observed in the 1970s and 1980s. Weighted by 1990 activity levels, intensities were roughly 15-20% lower in 1994/5 than in 1973, which in turn meant real savings of energy; energy demand in IEA c ountries is roughly this much below what it would have been for the same GD P had these savings not occurred. "Rebounds" may have taken back some of th e overall savings, but most remain, even after the fall of oil prices in 19 86. Any boost to GDP as a result of these savings could not have been suffi cient to increase energy demand enough to significantly alter these conclus ions. That the savings remained after the fall in oil prices supports the n otion that net savings - restrained energy growth relative to GDP in some f ormulations - arise from technological progress, even if energy prices do n ot increase. How far this effect can reach, however, is a matter of conside rable debate. (C) 2000 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserv ed.