- Jun 2022
Energy efficiency has never been more crucial! The time to unleashing its massive potential has come
Will this conference debate rebound effects of efficiency? If not, it will not have the desirable net effect.
My linked In comments were:
Alessandro Blasi, will this conference address the rebound effect? In particular, Brockway et al. have done a 2021 meta-analysis of 33 research papers on rebound effects of energy efficiency efforts and conclude:
"...economy-wide rebound effects may erode more than half of the expected energy savings from improved energy efficiency. We also find that many of the mechanisms driving rebound effects are overlooked by integrated assessment and global energy models. We therefore conclude that global energy scenarios may underestimate the future rate of growth of global energy demand."
Unless psychological and sociological interventions are applied along with energy efficiency to mitigate rebound effects, you will likely and ironically lose huge efficiencies in the entire efficiency intervention itself.
Also, as brought up by other commentators, there is a difference between efficiency and degrowth. Intelligent degrowth may work, especially applied to carbon intensive areas of the economy and can be offset by high growth in low carbon areas of the economy.
Vaclav Smil is pessimistic about a green energy revolution replacing fossil fuels https://www.ft.com/content/71072c77-53b3-4efd-92ae-c92dc02f09ad, which opens up the door to serious consideration of degrowth, not just efficiency improvements. Perhaps the answer is in a combination of all of the above, including targeted degrowth.
Technology moves quickly and unexpectedly. At the time of Smil's book release, there was no low carbon cement. Now there is a promising breakthrough: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/28/carbon-free-cement-breakthrough-dcvc-put-55-million-into-brimstone.html
As researchers around the globe work feverishly to make low carbon breakthroughs, there is obviously no guarantee of when they will occur. In that case then, with only a few years to peak, it would seem the lowest risk pathway would be to prioritize the precautionary principle over a gambling pathway (such as relying on Negative Emissions Technology breakthroughs) and perhaps consider along with rebound effect conditioned efficiency improvements also include a strategy of at least trialing a temporary, intentional degrowth of high carbon industries / growth of low carbon industries.