Why buy energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances and homes? By using less energy, we can save money, take stress off the power grid and helps reduce consumption

Reporter/Byline: Tyler Hamilton for the Toronto Star

energy efficiency

There are some who question whether energy efficiency is everything it’s touted to be. Specifically, they point to the idea that there is a large rebound effect to increased energy efficiency. The concept here is that when we use products that consume less energy, we end up using more of the product or using more products – or both.

When we install more efficient light bulbs, we’re more inclined to leave the lights on longer. If the end result is that gains in energy efficiency are offset by increased energy use, then what’s the point?

In the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s 2012 report, tried to set the record straight: Claims of 100 per cent rebound, it said, “do not stand up to scrutiny.”

This report that looked at both direct and indirect rebound effects.

Direct rebounds include the example of driving a more efficient car more often, ultimately using up any potential fuel savings. An indirect rebound occurs when money pocketed through energy-efficiency savings is spent on something else, such as a big-screen TV, which ends up consuming more energy – both through its production and everyday operation.

The council did not dispute that such rebounds exist, and that they vary depending on the product or action. But it concluded that critics of energy-efficiency programs were grossly exaggerating the size of the rebounds. It found that direct rebounds were generally 10 per cent or less, and indirect rebounds – while “less well understood” – were estimated at 11 per cent.

“Even if total rebound is about 20 per cent, then 80 per cent of the savings from energy efficiency programs and policies register in terms of reduced energy use,” it said. “And the 20 per cent rebound contributes to increased consumer amenities and a larger economy. These savings are not ‘lost’ but are put to other generally beneficial uses.”

In this sense, efficiency is being embraced as a way to cope with energy inflation; a way to maintain current levels of household energy consumption, not drive more of it.

First published in the Toronto Star on August 10, 2012

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