Revisiting the Rebound Effect: Practice Perspectives on Current and Future Energy Demand

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Eoin GREALIS, Ludwigs-Maximilian-Universit├Ąt (LMU), Germany
Henrike RAU, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich Tax ID DE811205325, Germany
Average household energy consumption levels across the European Union continue to remain stubbornly high despite the implementation of a considerable number of legislative and public policy instruments in recent times. Measures designed to reduce energy demand through efficiency gains or other technological advancement, and to sustain these lower levels into the future are often frustrated by a phenomenon known as the rebound effect. This effect describes a set of medium- to long-term changes that imply that reductions in energy use in a particular area (e.g. home heating) are offset and in some cases outstripped by increases in energy demand elsewhere (e.g. changes in the use of domestic appliances, new leisure practices requiring energy). While classical economic theory typically attributes these shifts in energy demand to basic income and substitution effects, this paper presents the rebound effect as a more complex, socio-cultural phenomenon, viewing changes in domestic energy use from a practice perspective. Drawing on insights from the EU-H2020 ENERGISE project, this framing offers a path to understanding changes in energy-dependent practices that potentially unfold over long periods of time. It is shown how these can result from diverse changes in the primary determinants of household energy consumption such as altered material conditions, skills or competences of its members and/or a shift in the meaning that householders attach to particular energy-dependent practices. By focusing explicitly on practices and their transformation, it is possible to make visible linkages between current efforts to reduce domestic energy use and future energy demand that have hitherto remained under-researched and poorly understood.