Looking for free riding: energy efficiency incentives and Italian homeowners
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We examine the effect of energy efficiency incentives on household energy efficiency home improvements. Starting in February 2007, Italian homeowners have been able to avail themselves of tax credits on the purchase and installation costs of certain types of energy efficiency renovations. We examine two such renovations—door/window replacements and heating system replacements—using multi-year cross-section data from the Italian Consumer Expenditure Survey and focusing on a narrow period around the introduction of the tax credits. Our regressions control for dwelling and household characteristics and economy-wide factors likely to influence the replacement rates. The effects of the policy are different for the two types of renovations. With window replacements, the policy is generally associated with a 30 % or stronger increase in the renovation rates and number of renovations. In the simplest econometric models, the effect is not statistically significant, but the results get stronger when we allow for heterogeneous effects across the country. With heating system replacements, simpler models suggest that the tax credits policy had no effect whatsoever or that free riding was rampant, i.e., people are now accepting subsidies for replacements that they would have done anyway. Further examination suggests a strong degree of heterogeneity in the effects across warmer and colder parts of the country, and effects in the colder areas that are even more pronounced than those for window replacements. These results should, however, be interpreted with caution due to the low rates of renovations, which imply that the effects are estimated relatively imprecisely.
KeywordsEnergy efficiency policy Household behavior Italy Energy consumption survey
JEL ClassificationQ41 D12 H3
The authors are very grateful to Francesco Bosello, Cristina Cattaneo, Roberta Distante, Massimo Filippini, and Elena Verdolini for helpful discussions. We are also grateful to the attendees of the 12th IEAEE congress in Venice, the 5th EMEE workshop in Berlin, and the CEPE seminar series at ETH Zurich, where this paper was presented, for their comments and suggestions. This research was funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement No. 265325 (PURGE—Public health impacts in URban environments of Greenhouse gas Emissions reduction strategies).
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