Environmental Policy Tools to Prevent Rebound Effects (ReInCent)

Increasing resource efficiency is commonly considered a key factor in sustainability. Often, however, initiatives and programs aimed at increasing resource efficiency do not achieve the expected reduction in energy and resource consumption. Frequently, this is due to the rebound effect. This phenomenon describes modified user behaviour that offsets the conservation effects of new technologies or even increases consumption. Accordingly, the design of policy tools that can prevent or minimise the rebound effect is of great social and political importance. Up to this point, there have been few attempts at the national or international level to reduce rebound effects systematically by way of energy or environmental policy. In fact, the development of effective countermeasures has not even played a prominent role in research. Moreover, initial efforts related to the rebound effect apply only to the consumer – there has been almost nothing on the company side.

The aim of the 'ReInCent' project is to help fill the gaps in the research and make energy policy more resistant to rebound effects. The idea is to reduce these effects with energy policy tools and, at the same time, raise awareness of the problem among project participants – with the subsequent, concrete implementation of measures to reduce rebound effects on the part of the participating companies. The focus of the project is a first for research in the field, in example taking tools that, as of yet, address only consumers as a reference point in the discussion and applying them to companies.

adelphi and the University of Kassel are conducting the project with funding from the Research for Sustainable Development (FONA) programme, which is run by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In cooperation with participants from politics and private industry, the project partners will apply a transdisciplinary approach to analyse the connections between energy policy and the rebound effect – specifically, those that exist in the tension between public policy and the problems and opportunities of the private sector. The project will then prepare the findings in a practice-oriented manner. The work will be carried out by researchers with expertise in environmental and behavioral economics, politics, social sciences, and engineering.