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Abstract

European energy policy has not faced up to something about which there is increasingly little doubt: global reduction, or even stabilisation in energy use will not be achieved unless Europe and the other rich OECD countries aim at significantly curbing their energy services (heat, light, motive power, mobility and so on). The policy makers at the centre of the policy discourse on energy sustainability suffer from a form for self-deception which revolves around the equation of 'efficiency' with 'reduction' and 'sustainability', i.e., the untenable contention that technological and market efficiency alone will offset continued growth in energy services to the extent that deep reductions in energy use are possible. Many researchers and environmentalists seem to have, partly for strategic reasons, adapted to this view and thereby supported politicians in the self-deception. In this paper we use results from India and China, with more than one third of the world population, to show how there is likely to be dramatic increases in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in those countries over the next half-century. Much of this increase will be in conjunction with the development of basic services and infrastructure for homes, businesses, transport, health and public services, so that it is neither ethical nor even practical to argue for restrictions in overall energy growth in these and other developing countries. This places the onus for deep reductions in energy use on Europe, North America and the other affluent countries. The paper explores what such a change of focus would mean for policy and research agendas, and why there is friction to moving the policy envelope from 'efficiency' to also include 'sufficiency'.
... Therefore, as its meaning changes depending on context, so does its perceived utility. Wilhite and Nørgård (2004) contend that energy sustainability discourse suffers from self-deception, which revolves around equating efficiency with reduction (p. 992). ...
... However, as Jackson (2017) claims, even if we leave the economic growth paradigm, efficiently using energy and materials remains a core foundation of the economy of tomorrow. Thus, almost regardless of the perspective on societal change, energy efficiency is a solution that either fuels continued green growth (European Commission, 2016;Sakai et al., 2019) or serves as a component in a future (non-growth) economy and provides necessities while respecting planetary limits (Jackson, 2017;Wilhite & Nørgård, 2004). ...
... If interpretive flexibility flows from black-boxing fundamentally different opinions, these objects do not necessarily translate between social worlds but rather conceal differences between them. In our case, concealment in the public debate reflects what Wilhite and Nørgård (2004) call a self-deception in energy policy, the equation of more with less, and efficiency with savings and absolute reductions. However, our argument is not only a call for the correct use of these concepts. ...
Article
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This article investigates how energy efficiency features in Norwegian news media discourse. Based on an analysis of 309 news articles, we explore the objectification of energy efficiency and its rhetorical connections to energy savings and reductions. Energy efficiency is surrounded by positive overtones and used flexibly to include different meanings as well as effects. As a discursive object, the term wields significant rhetorical and legitimizing power, producing consensus across conflicting narratives and controversies in what we call the “discourse-as-usual”. We argue that energy efficiency shares characteristics with boundary objects, conveying an interpretive flexibility to bridge otherwise incommensurable perspectives on the need to decrease or increase absolute energy consumption. However, there are a few instances where controversy turns toward energy efficiency itself, revealing different views on absolute limits to energy consumption. By scrutinizing one of these glitches in consensus, we examine the normal through the anomaly to pinpoint the moral prerogative of energy efficiency in the discourse-as-usual. By black-boxing the complex relationship between efficiency and reductions, the term allows for avoiding the question of absolute limits to energy consumption in news media debates. Rather than translate between climate change and economic stability and growth narratives, we assert that energy efficiency as a discursive object conceals opposition between them. We discuss this concealment as a form of system dependency, as it is by black-boxing the effects of energy efficiency that it can unite adversaries and ensure ongoing activity.
... Energy policymaking has been traditionally informed by the physical-technical-economic model (PTEM), which focuses on the physical characteristics of buildings and technologies and aggregate effects on energy prices (Lutzenhiser, 1993). Such an approach reflected a long-diffused narrative on technological development as the main strategy for tackling environmental challenges (Sovacool et al., 2015;Wilhite and Norgard, 2004). Within this narrative, human behaviour was considered a trivial factor, as it was generally assumed that it was not able to drive the expected environmental and economic benefits in the same way as the technological and economic factors. ...
Technical Report
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One example of a way for citizens to contribute to the low-carbon energy transition is by investing in energy efficiency (EE). However, there are still multiple barriers that make the socially optimal level of adoption a complex target to achieve. Over the past three decades, the debate on how to encourage EE has been guided by the physical–technical–economic model, which has a strong focus on devices and costs, and in which human behaviour has been seen as a trivial factor. Fortunately, the advent of a new causal framework to model citizens’ behaviour (behavioural economics) has started to enable the integration of the human factor into many policy areas, including EE. However, this integration is only in its infancy. This report aims to further stimulate the policy integration of the human factor by providing policy actors, who are interested in encouraging citizens’ decisions to invest in EE, with key conceptual and practical insights from four examples of energy-related social sciences (economics, behavioural economics, psychology and sociology).
... However, research evaluating the energy-saving claims raised by this strategy provides strong evidence that an increase in energy efficiency by, say, 50% does not necessarily equal a decrease of total energy demand by 50%, respectively (e.g., Wilhite and Norgard, 2004): Increasing the technological energy efficiency may lead to reduced use of energy per unit of production or service, but at the same time they may raise the demand of these serviceswhich runs counter to the goal of saving energy. Concerning the heating energy domain, Sorrell et al. (2009) identified energy saving potentials loss due to such effects by 10% to 70%. ...
Article
Reducing energy use through increased energy efficiency in production and consumption represents a crucial strategy by national governments for reaching their climate protection goals. Unfortunately, increasing the technological energy efficiency may raise the demand for these services (i.e., rebound effect). To provide appropriate proposals on how this undesired effect could be stopped or at least damped, the Experimental Vignette Methodology (EVM) represents a research methodology allowing the controlled experimental analysis of causal mechanisms underlying a rebound effect and the empirical evaluation of rebound-damping interventions without the high costs associated with (quasi-) experimental field studies. Based on the results of 12 studies, we are evaluating two types of vignette designs: (1) a single-vignette design theoretically based on an economic perspective on the rebound and (2) a double-vignette design theoretically based on Prospect Theory. Finally, we document how to imbed an experimental test of a psychological intervention's effectiveness. The findings underline the value of the EVM as a viable methodological strategy for analyzing and understanding rebound affine situations and appropriate intervention strategies.
... Climate change was framed as a 'physical problem' that is judged to be solved by technical and market-ready solutions in its foreground (Bauriedl 2016;Lakoff 2010). As a consequence, total emission rates did not decrease and potential savings were eaten up by different, alternative or increased consumption patterns described as rebound effects (Santarius and Soland 2018;Schmelzer and Vetter 2019;Wilhite and Norgard 2004). The associated idea of decoupling environmental and material consumption from economic growth that accompanied the efficiency approach proofed ineffective to solve the climate crisis (Parrique et al. 2019). ...
Article
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Representative studies report high levels of acceptance of environmental protection and approval for stricter political measures to ensure a liveable future. However, in the last years, climate-damaging emissions did not decrease in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and important societal actors failed to implement effective strategies that could promote a socio-ecological transformation. Sufficiency with its underlying ‘mind-set’ can be a seen as leverage point for transformation and thus is targeted within our qualitative study. To explore barriers that prevent the implementation of knowledge about the sufficiency approach and ways to encourage sufficiency orientation on a societal level, we conducted interviews with experts from science, politics and economy (N = 21). Using qualitative content analysis, we identified keys for change, i.e., narratives, rewards and recognition, time structures and responsibilities that could have a leveraging effect towards system transformation. We propose an exploratory framework that points out main barriers, keys in terms of levers and experts’ visions towards a sufficiency-oriented society. Furthermore, we outline that the sufficiency discourse contains ambiguities and varieties concerning the experts’ perceptions regarding effective levers for a transformation. Through brief discourse pattern analysis, we highlight different perceptions regarding the role of technology, social responsibility and the societal change and time. The proposed framework can inspire future research and policy-making on sufficiency.
... However, changing people's behaviours appears to be a tremendous challenge for policy makers and practitioners. Indeed, despite constant energy efficiency gains, final energy consumption has been rising since 1990 and has started only recently to decrease marginally 1 -evidence that points to "rebound effects" and urges us to discuss volumes of energy consumption rather than merely energy efficiency improvements (Calwell 2010, Jackson 2010, Wilhite and Norgard 2004. Thus, it is fair to say that, compared to the technological challenge -which is certainly also far from trivial -the challenge of changing Western consumption patterns is an even greater one. ...
Conference Paper
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Achieving a massive reduction of CO 2 emissions depends not only on technical energy efficiency, but also strongly on changing patterns of consumption. Policy makers and science often fail to consider the great variety of modern societies, addressing a standardized uniform being called "the consumer". In this paper we take the strong segmentation of the French society into account, applying the Sinus Milieus® approach developed by the marketing company Sociovision. These (currently 9) quantifiable social milieus are defined along social values, aspirations, lifestyles and socioeconomic conditions. We will analyze the carbon footprint of those Milieus, identify the consumption areas with the highest footprint and subsequently suggest appropriate "intervention strategies" for each Milieu. Each Milieu is represented by one or two typical profiles, created on prominent characteristics such as the type of housing, frequency of long distance travels, or food preferences. The personal carbon footprint related to each profile is calculated with the Bilan Carbone Personnel® tool which was developed by the French energy agency ADEME. It is subdivided into 4 main categories which account for different kinds of parameters: (1) domestic consumption (2) transportation (3) food and (4) goods and services. First results show that the personal carbon footprint varies greatly from one Milieu to another and from one field of consumption to another, particularly regarding transportation. Given those strong differences between Milieus and consumption areas we will subsequently suggest low-carbon "intervention strategies" that are targeted to the specific characteristics of different Milieus. Typically, such measures can be communication (e.g. campaigns), regulation (personal carbon allowances), financial incentives 2 (e.g. feed-in tariffs), the promotion of collective action (e.g. community initiatives) and changes of "choice infrastructures" (e.g. attractive public transportation).
... This is crucial because the underlying political and economic priorities could be ones that undermine the efficacy of reductions in throughput produced by efficiency. The growth imperative highlighted above is one such political economic priority; indeed, considerable empirical evidence highlights the Jevon's Paradox or the rebound effect whereby, despite efficiency-induced savings, the overall scale of energy and material throughput grows unsustainably (for example, Wilhite and Norgard, 2004). Thus, building a "green economy" on a retooling of infrastructure for efficiency improvements alone will remain a halfmeasure, with some gains to be had no doubt, but one that has been found to be counterproductive as well. ...
... larger refrigerators tend to have better kWh/L performances due to geometrical characteristics). Absolute performance standards would be set according to the absolute consumption (e.g from kWh/m 2 to kWh/capita for building thermal performances) (Harris et al. 2008;Wilhite and Norgard 2004). ...
Preprint
We investigate the relevance to broaden the current strategic framework of the European Union on energy demand management if absolute demand reduction was to be targeted. To this specific end, the current EU political framework primarily focusing on efficiency and nudging individual behaviours proves limited ability. These efforts could be backed by the setting of progressive and/or absolute technical performance targets and by addressing social and infrastructural influences of individual behaviours. Embedding this new agenda into a sufficiency approach would enable to set a structural focus on conservation strategies while enhancing well-being. We illustrate how this framework could be applied to residential energy demand management and find out that political support to cohousing could enable substantial energy savings, as well as other significant socio-environmental benefits. This work is primarily based on a literature review and is completed by an explanatory model of residential energy consumption based on cross-sectional data in Sweden to investigate the impacts of household size on energy consumption.
Article
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Sufficiency is a sustainability strategy aiming for (1) a decrease in absolute resource consumption on individual and societal levels, and (2) for socio-ecological justice and the fair distribution of costs and benefits of resource use to meet every human’s basic needs. This study examined a longitudinal intervention to foster individual sufficiency orientation (i.e., a multidimensional construct including both attitudes towards the sufficiency sustainability strategy and corresponding behavioral intentions). We recruited N = 252 participants who participated in a one-week reflective diary-intervention to increase sufficiency orientation in everyday life and assessed sufficiency orientation, basic psychological need satisfaction, self-reflection, subjective well-being, and time affluence before (T1), directly after (T2), and four weeks after the intervention (T3). Contrary to our predictions, there was no significant difference between the experimental and the control group. Sufficiency orientation increased across groups. Basic psychological need satisfaction was the strongest predictor of sufficiency orientation. There were positive relations with subjective well-being. Targeting basic psychological need satisfaction, as a potential underlying driver of sufficiency orientation, seems to be a promising avenue for designing interventions. Employing a need-based, humanistic approach to designing psychological interventions is in line with the aims of sufficiency to meet every human’s basic needs, in a socio-ecologically just world.
Research
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Almost 50 million EU citizens are affected by energy poverty, which is generally defined as inadequate use of domestic energy services. However, while extensive research has been conducted on the implications that some dimensions of energy poverty, such as high energy costs and cold homes have on households in the EU, very little is known about this in the context of Norway. Norway is one of the most income-equal countries in the world as well as a country with historically low electricity prices. Despite this however, if some Norwegian households continue to live in energy poverty, they may endure the double trauma of being energy poor while not being recognized as such. The aim of this qualitative study is to explore how Norwegian households experience, cope and make changes in response to energy poverty, from changing their use of energy services to maintaining social relations and a preferred lifestyle. The main research question guiding this report is: how do vulnerable households in Norway experience energy poverty in everyday life? The data material for the study was collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with 18 members from 17 households experiencing energy poverty. The interviewees were recruited using a variation of recruitment approaches, such as gatekeepers, snowballing and hand-picking cases. Findings are analyzed and discussed drawing on concepts from practice theory. The study finds that lack of financial independence, social capital in the form of family, social and material dimensions to housing and energy consumption as well as normative expectations of energy use have implications for how energy poverty is experienced by households. Most interviewees have little perceived agency to ameliorate their situation. A group of younger interviewees feel marginalized having to limit energy use extensively, cut food costs, rely on financial support from parents and isolate themselves to pay high energy costs in the colder months. They feel unable to live “normal” lives and struggle with feelings of shame, embarrassment, and stigma. A group of older interviewees are less vulnerable having more stable sources of income, drawing on cheap or free firewood as well as having stronger social capital in the form of their children. This group primarily struggles with maintaining an adequate indoor temperature and rarely mentions making sacrifices in other areas. Rather, these interviewees express having learned to live within the boundaries of their financial means and having found strength in careful management of their financial means.
Thesis
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Almost 50 million EU citizens are affected by energy poverty, which is generally defined asinadequate use of domestic energy services. However, while extensive research has beenconducted on the implications that some dimensions of energy poverty, such as high energycosts and cold homes have on households in the EU, very little is known about this in thecontext of Norway. Norway is one of the most income-equal countries in the world as well asa country with historically low electricity prices. Despite this however, if some Norwegianhouseholds continue to live in energy poverty, they may endure the double trauma of beingenergy poor while not being recognized as such. The aim of this qualitative study is to explorehow Norwegian households experience, cope and make changes in response to energy poverty, from changing their use of energy services to maintaining social relations and a preferred lifestyle. The main research question guiding the thesis is: how do vulnerablehouseholds in Norway experience energy poverty in everyday life? The data material for thestudy was collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with 18 members from 17households experiencing energy poverty. The interviewees were recruited using a variation ofrecruitment approaches, such as gatekeepers, snowballing and hand-picking cases. Findingsare analyzed and discussed drawing on concepts from practice theory. The study finds thatlack of financial independence, social capital in the form of family, social and materialdimensions to housing and energy consumption as well as normative expectations of energyuse have implications for how energy poverty is experienced by households. Mostinterviewees have little perceived agency to ameliorate their situation. A group of youngerinterviewees feel marginalized having to limit energy use extensively, cut food costs, rely onfinancial support from parents and isolate themselves to pay high energy costs in the coldermonths. They feel unable to live “normal” lives and struggle with feelings of shame,embarrassment, and stigma. A group of older interviewees are less vulnerable having morestable sources of income, drawing on cheap or free firewood as well as having stronger socialcapital in the form of their children. This group primarily struggles with maintaining anadequate indoor temperature and rarely mentions making sacrifices in other areas. Rather,these interviewees express having learned to live within the boundaries of their financialmeans and having found strength in careful management of their financial means.
Chapter
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This paper will have a subjective touch in the sense that besides the technical facts presented, it will also reflect the preferences of the authors about future living. There are, however, indications that these preferences are increasingly in harmony with the attitudes of the public in general.
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Although its per capita energy consumption is still only one half of the world average, China is already the second largest energy consumer in the world. In the 1970s, China's energy efficiency was very low, sharing the negative characteristics in this respect of both developing countries and centrally planned economies. Since then, great progress has been made, with a decline of energy intensity of GDP of about 5.4 % per year between 1980 and 1997, due both to improvement in energy efficiency and, in a greater proportion, to shifts in the composition of GDP. The elasticity of energy to GDP is now lower than 0.5. The presence in China of abundant, low-cost coal resources, although favourable to economic development, inhibits efforts to improve energy efficiency. In China, smaller plants (in particular in township and village enterprises) perform worse than larger-scale plants, and are nowadays often being shut down. However, highly efficient technologies for small-scale production are available in industrialised countries and deserve to be explored. Combined production of heat and power is already widespread in China, especially for urban space heating; however, its efficiency is much lower than it could be with modern plants having a higher electricity to heat ratio and serving more particularly the industrial sector. Great improvements in energy performance are expected for new buildings, both commercial and residential. Institutional and other non-technical issues are also being addressed; economic instruments based on market forces are the most effective. Much remains to be done to bring China to the level of the most energy-efficient countries, but China has unique opportunities to become a world leader in the efficient use of energy, because both of the rapidly expanding economy and of the flexibility inherent in the low level of existing energy infrastructure.
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This paper summarizes results of an assessment of future energy-technology strategies for China highlighting implications of different advanced energy-technology strategies that could allow China to continue its social and economic development while ensuring national energy-supply security and promoting environmental sustainability. The MARKAL energy-system modeling tool was used to build a model of China's energy system. Different scenarios for the evolution of energy supply and demand from 1995 to 2050 were explored, enabling insights to be gained into different energy development choices that China might make. The overall conclusion from the analysis is that there are plausible energy-technology strategies that would enable China to continue social and economic development through at least the next 50 years while ensuring security of energy supply and improved local and global environmental quality. Surprisingly, except for the case when very major reductions in carbon emissions are sought, the model predicts that such energy strategies would not involve significantly higher cumulative (1995–2050) discounted costs for the energy system than “business-as-usual” strategies. Furthermore, “business-as-usual” strategies, which were also modeled, will not enable China to meet all of its environmental and energy security goals. To meet these goals, an energy development strategy that relies on the introduction of advanced technologies is essential. To realize such strategies, policies are needed in China that will (1) encourage utilization of a wider variety of primary energy sources (especially biomass and wind) and clean secondary energy carriers (especially synthetic fluid fuels from coal and biomass), (2) support the development, demonstration and commercialization of radically new clean energy conversion technologies to ensure that they are commercially available beginning in the next 10 to 20 years, and (3) support aggressive end-use energy efficiency improvement measures.
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This paper considers the debate in the UK and the USA on some economists' claims that improving energy efficiency will lead to a greater energy consumption (than would have otherwise occurred), a concept termed the Khazzoom–Brookes postulate. It analyses the criticisms of this claim and of the responses, particularly of the concept of ‘dematerialization’. The paper attempts to tackle the paucity of empirical evidence in the UK by looking at long-term trends in efficiency and use with respect to UK public lighting. Finally, it focuses on the views of two economists, namely Len Brookes and William Rees, who both accept the postulate but have differing views and policies on measures to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Brookes believes in free-market solutions, whereas Rees puts forward a vision of a sustainable future based on ecological tax-reform and reafforestation.
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In our October 1987 issue (pp. 85-89), we published a Comment by J. Daniel Khazzoom on a paper given by Amory Lovins at the November 1986 North American Conference of the IAEE. The subject, certain aspects of energy savings from the use of more efficient appliances, has important research and policy implications. Dr. Lovins's reply (plus a follow-up note by three staff members of the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) appears below. Professor Khazzoom's rejoinder will appear in a subsequent issue. I encourage additional comments and letters from our readers.