Energy Efficiency and Household Behavior: The Rebound Effect in the Residential Sector

Published in Rand Journal Of Economics
Sustainable Real Estate, Energy efficiency

Policies designed to reduce energy consumption in the residential sector through energy efficiency measures are typically based upon engineering calculations, which may differ significantly from outcomes observed in practice. A widely acknowledged explanation for this gap between expected and the realized energy savings is household behavior, as energy efficiency gains alter the perceived cost of comfort and thereby generate shifts in consumption patterns -- a "rebound effect". This paper adds to the ongoing discussion about the method of identication and the magnitude of this effect, by examining the elasticity of energy consumption with respect to a predicted measure of thermal efficiency, using a sample of 560,000 dwellings and their occupants in the Netherlands. We document significant deviations between engineering predictions and the actual energy consumption of households: our results show a rebound effect of 26.7 percent among homeowners, and 41.3 percent among tenants. There is significant heterogeneity in the rebound effect across households, determined by household wealth and income, and the actual energy use intensity (EUI). The effects are largest among the lower income and wealth cohorts, and among households that tend to use more energy than the average household.



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