After 35 Years of Rebound Research in Economics: Where Do We Stand?

  • Reinhard MadlenerEmail author
  • Karen Turner


The phenomenon of rebound effects has sparked considerable academic, policy and press debate over the effectiveness of energy efficiency policy. In recent years, a plethora of theoretical and empirical rebound studies have been published, fueling the discussion but also raising further issues and unanswered questions. At the same time, it seems that there is a lack of understanding of how to treat and measure central aspects such as potential energy savings expected and the energy services impacted by an efficiency increase. Moreover, there is a lack of clarity and understanding in how we move from micro- to macrolevels of analysis and reporting. In terms of policy understanding, the crux of the problem is that there is no such thing as a simple formula for all aspects of rebound. The aim of this chapter is to clarify the correct perspective on how to look at economic dimensions of rebound, with particular attention to what policy-makers can do with rebound analysis and findings. Further, we attempt to synthesize existing rebound taxonomies and to provide, in a concise manner, the economic rebound mechanisms at work. We then approach the rebound theme from both micro- and macroperspectives, before bringing the two angles together. Overall, we argue that both policy-makers and researchers need to be aware that rebound is an issue that ought to be tackled at multiple levels and that there are policy trade-offs, especially between economic growth and ecological sustainability. This may be resolved at least to a certain extent by welfare considerations.


Energy economics Economic rebound mechanisms Rebound taxonomy Economy-wide rebound 



Karen Turner acknowledges support from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC grant ref. EP/M00760X/1) through a project titled ‘Energy Savings Innovations and Economy-Wide Rebound Effects’. Reinhard Madlener is grateful for rebound research funding received from the German Federal Ministry of the Economy and Technology (BMWi) (“Energy Consumer Behavior in Retrofitted Buildings”, grant ref. 03ET4004), the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research (MIWF) (“Rebound-E.NRW”, ETN grant ref. W029), and the Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Spatial Research (BBSR) within the Federal Bureau for Building and Planning (BBR) (project “Retrofit Plan for Federal Buildings: A Special Study to Quantify Rebound Effects Concerning Thermal Retrofits of Non-Residential Buildings/Federal Properties”, grant ref.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior (FCN), School of Business and Economics/E.ON Energy Research CenterRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Energy Policy, International Public Policy InstituteUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowScotland, UK

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