Azara Blog: Economists suddenly discover that energy efficiency does not mean less energy is consumed

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Date published: 2007/11/01

The BBC says:

Energy savings in UK households could be up to 30% lower than previously thought, jeopardising efforts to cut the nation's carbon dioxide emissions.

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) blamed the miscalculation on "rebound effects" from energy-saving measures.

As people cut their bills by using more efficient devices, they tend to spend the extra money buying additional goods that cancel out some of the savings.

The government has set a binding target of cutting CO2 levels by 60% by 2050.

The UKERC's research director, Jim Skea, said the introduction of the legally binding CO2 target in the Climate Change Bill increased the need for accurate measurements.
Professor Skea said the legal requirement to meet future targets meant that the government was likely to pay close attention to factors such as rebound effects in the future.

He said: "One of the recommendations of this report is that the government should be allowing a little bit of headroom in its carbon targets in order to get the assurance that they are actually going to be met."

This is a well known, if hard to quantify effect. It's hard to believe that this is just coming to the attention of the government now, so one has to assume there is just some politics behind this story. And right on cue, in the last paragraph we get the politics.

In any case, this is only one problem with the government's view of emissions. Another serious problem is that the accounting of emissions is bogus. The UK has successfully exported emissions that it should be held responsible for. So, for example, the emissions created when making steel in China that is imported into the UK should be counted against the UK total, not the China total (and the opposite for UK steel exports), but this does not happen. (This is what turns the Kyoto Treaty from being mediocre to being fatally flawed.)

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