Aug. 2, 2012

As the energy efficiency of products, homes, and businesses improves, it becomes less expensive to operate them. The rebound effect postulates that people increase their use of products and facilities as a result of this reduction in operating costs, thereby reducing the energy savings achieved. Periodically, some analysts raise questions about the rebound effect, arguing that it is a major factor that needs to be accounted for when analyzing energy efficiency programs…In order to address these recurring arguments, ACEEE released a white paper entitled The Rebound Effect: Large or Small? The paper is written in a "question and answer" format designed to summarize what we know, what we do not, and—given what we know—how large the rebound effect is likely to be. The paper examines both direct and indirect rebound effects.

New ACEEE energy efficiency study finds that there are both direct and indirect rebound effects, but these tend to be modest. Direct rebound effects are generally 10% or less. Indirect rebound effects are less well understood but the best available estimate is somewhere around 11%. These two types of rebound can be combined to estimate total rebound of about 20%. We examined claims of "backfire" (100% rebound), but they do not stand up to scrutiny. Furthermore, direct rebound effects can potentially be reduced through improved approaches to inform consumers about their energy use in ways that might influence their behavior. And indirect rebound effects, which appear to be linked to the share of our economy that goes to energy, may decline as the energy intensity of our economy decreases.

Overall, even if total rebound is about 20%, then 80% of the savings from energy efficiency programs and policies register in terms of reduced energy use, which benefits the environment and public health. And the 20% rebound contributes to increased consumer amenities (like more comfortable homes), as well as to a larger economy and more jobs. Therefore, these savings are not "lost," but put to other generally beneficial uses.

  • dilection