Tag Archives: rebound effect

Psychology : the most important research questions about the energy efficiency

The roles of academic psychology in climate change perspectives have been described in various articles. Among the most important of them is the Dreyer et al’s publication (1). They highlighted the food-energy-water nexus as central component of human life, and a priority for our current and studies. However, it is relatively hard to identify priorities for each component. I found a set of good papers on food research priorities in psychology. (I will contact some researchers for the water question)

A social sciences and humanities-focused research agenda has been developed (horizon scanning method) by questioning more than 150 researchers from 23 countries (2). Authors listed 100 research questions splitted in 7 domains.

I subjectively selected the research questions for the academic psychology communities (community, organizational, health, social psychology). Also, I recommend the Introduction subsection : ‘Evolution of social sciences and humanities research on energy efficiency’. It is important to note that these recommendations are more adapted for high incomes countries.

“Theme 1: Citizenship, engagement and knowledge exchange in relation to energy efficiency

  • What are the challenges to mobilising collective action around energy efficiency and sufficiency (e.g., convincing private apartment owners to undertake collective refurbishments); and what learnings on addressing these can be drawn from exemplars?
  • Which organisations and individuals play important roles in the diffusion of energy efficiency measures to homes and businesses; and how do these diffusion processes operate (e.g., through developments in leadership, social norms and skills)?
  • How can policies and public programmes aiming to increase energy efficiency, via citizen engagement, go beyond individualistic models of behaviour; and how can a social practice framing result in different types of programmes?

Theme 2: Energy efficiency in relation to equity, justice, poverty and vulnerability

  • What are the major barriers and enablers of installing energy efficiency measures among different socio-demographic and socio-economic groups; and what are the implications for designing policies that ensure energy efficiency is accessible to all?
  • How do energy efficiency policies affect vulnerable groups with higher energy consumption needs (e.g., elderly, disabled); and how can policies ensure that such ‘energy vulnerable’ citizens benefit from energy efficiency solutions?
  • What are the short-, medium- and long-term effects of domestic energy efficiency improvements on the mental and physical health of people living in energy poverty?

Theme 3: Energy efficiency in relation to everyday life and practices of energy consumption and production.

  • What unanticipated challenges and poor outcomes arise from a lack of ‘fit’ between new initiatives or technologies with everyday lives and practices; and how can these be addressed?
  • What are the roles of personal, cultural and site-specific factors in the success or failure of energy efficiency initiatives?
  • How can participatory design and co-creation approaches contribute to the development of energy efficiency solutions that work with, rather than against, practices in everyday settings?
  • How is thermal comfort perception related to physiological, psychological and social influences; and how could understanding of these relationships help to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption in everyday life?
  • What are the conditions that facilitate the acceptance and pursuit of energy sufficiency (e.g., living in smaller spaces, avoiding mobility, reducing consumption) over energy efficiency; and how can these conditions be scaled-up across society?

Theme 6: Roles of economic systems, supply chains and financial mechanisms in improving energy efficiency

  • Given that a large proportion of intentions to invest in energy efficiency measures (in existing buildings) are never carried out or are substantially delayed, how can Social Sciences and Humanities improve understandings of this implementation gap?

Theme 7: The interactions, unintended consequences and rebound effects of energy efficiency interventions.

  • How can various ‘rebound effects’ or unintended consequences resulting from increasing energy efficiency be minimised through technological design, new policies, alignment with particular contextual conditions, or even the formulation of alternative approaches to reducing energy demand?
  • How can Social Sciences and Humanities contribute to better qualifying and quantifying the non-energy-related benefits of energy efficiency; and how can this be translated into better Monitoring and Evaluation tools for policymakers?
  • What are the relationships between energy efficiency and healthy and productive indoor environments; and how can human-building interactions be improved to optimise all these outcomes?
  • What are the relationships between energy efficiency, energy demand and human well-being; and what roles could energy efficiency and energy sufficiency play in policy interventions to tackle inequalities in well-being?”

1. Dreyer SJ, Kurz T, Prosser AMB, Abrash Walton A, Dennings K, McNeill I, et al. Towards a Psychology of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus: Costs and Opportunities. Journal of Social Issues. 2020;76(1):136‑49.

2. Foulds C, Royston S, Berker T, Nakopoulou E, Bharucha ZP, Robison R, et al. An agenda for future Social Sciences and Humanities research on energy efficiency: 100 priority research questions. Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 30 juin 2022;9(1):1‑18.

Solar photovoltaic panels and rebound effect (of electric consumption)

An excellent article describing the interdisciplinary approach of rebound effects in German solar photovoltaic user households (prosumer) has been recently published (Galvin et al. 2022). Authors highlight the most important steps of their interdisciplinary process: an engagement to dialogue between various background researchers, to design “from the beginning” an interdisciplinary method and findings analysis strategies, to identify the detailed role of each researcher teams, and to develop a shared vocabulary.

This paper presents an overview of method, findings, and common analysis/interpretation of 3 studies (see Fig 1). This research team explored the potential rebound effect in term of electricity consumption in prosumers.

Qualitative interviews of rural prosumers (N= 19)

Three frameworks emerged form thematic analyses: a “geo-sociotechnical” domain (association between technology, self-regulation and sun), interaction between ‘positive and negative’ rebound effects, and financial/psychological explanations. An “income effect” also was identified in early photovoltaic adopters (i.e., 2000’s). Indeed, extra electricity was purchased around 0.5 euro/kWh, and household ‘benefits’ may have been associated with more travels,.. Here, it was not necessary a rebound effect in term of electricity consumption. A ‘price effect’ was observed (i.e., the kWh price was lower in more recent adopters), so it was less interesting to purchase its own electricity. A moral licensing effect was reported among participants.

National online cross-sectional questionnaire (N= 1291 vs 297 (non)prosumer).

Prosumers were younger, lived in a larger house, had higher incomes, had more frequently a heat pump, and high level of environmental concerns. Researchers would quantify a possible rebound effect occurring after households install a photovoltaic system. To identify possible correlated of rebound effects, they also collected data about attitudes, economic incentives, and behaviors. No significant differences was observed for electric consumption between (non)prosumers (even if I don’t clearly understand their statistical approach).

Data analysis of co2online dataset

This no profit organization have a data-set of people self-reporting their electricity consumption (1992-2018). 79 households reported their consumption before and after their photovoltaic system installation. A rebound effect of 9.6% was found. Authors highlighted a possible limit, a possible self-monitoring effect on electricity consumption. In other words, this rebound effect may be underestimated.

rebound effect

As expected in an interdisciplinary research project, all findings were collectively discussed. The team decided to ‘re-run’ their analyses to investigate the effect of feed-in tariff (major change in 2011 from 0.5 euro/kWh to 0.09 euro/kWh, see Fig 3) and regulations changes (i.e., allowed self-consumption) on their previous results.

A significant difference was found between (non)prosumers in 2011 sub-sample, prosumers consumed more electricity (18%, c-à-d 675.57kWh/y) than control participants. A rebound effect of 14% was observed. Analyses based on co2online data-set suggested a possible rebound effect of 33% in post-2011 installers. It is important to note that ‘income effect’ was reported in interview only in pre-2011 users. Again, the level of self-reported environment concerns (questionnaire measure) was not related to electricity consumption. It contrasts with findings from some interviews. Furthermore, authors suggested that this important rebound effect in post-2011 prosumers could be problematic because it decrease the renewable electricity going into the grid.

By extrapolating the findings and conclusions, this investigation may be a good illustration of interdependence between decision to buy a solar photovoltaic mostly based on (economic and ‘rational’ psychological factors), the system rules moving (e.g., kWh price), technical and power improvements of photovoltaic systems, and strengthened personal ecological values (for better of for worst). This figure synthesizes this idea.

  • Galvin, Ray, Johannes Schuler, Ayse Tugba Atasoy, Hendrik Schmitz, Matthias Pfaff, and Jan Kegel. 2022. “A Health Research Interdisciplinary Approach for Energy Studies: Confirming Substantial Rebound Effects Among Solar Photovoltaic Households in Germany.” Energy Research & Social Science 86 (April): 102429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.102429.