This article examines selected energy efficiency policy instruments with regard to their susceptibility to rebound effects. These include BAFA's grant funding for investments in cross-sectional technologies, the Energy Efficiency and Climate Protection Networks Initiative, and the energy management systems ISO50001 and EMAS. Rebound effects arise when an energy efficiency measure leads to a change in behavior that is accompanied by increased energy consumption. This additional energy consumption reduces the savings realized through the efficiency measure.
The analysis examines the question of what effect the BAFA subsidy, energy efficiency networks and energy management systems have on the occurrence of rebound effects in companies. Based on the program-theoretical evaluation approach, the impact logic of the selected instruments is examined in order to identify moments in their logic that do not actively avoid or even promote rebound effects in companies (“rebound markers”). In a second step, the identified rebound markers are validated using a qualitative content analysis of interviews with 27 energy managers from companies of different sizes and industries.
Overall, it can be seen across all three instruments that rebound effects in companies are not effectively contained due to the weak savings targets that are formulated within the framework of the instruments and are not very ambitious or formulated relative to production development. The way in which the goals of the energy management systems are formulated can even induce rebound effects. The same applies to the low binding nature of the savings targets formulated within the framework of these instruments. In addition, education and awareness-raising about energy efficiency and rebound effects within the framework of networks and funding is not sufficient to prevent the occurrence of rebound effects.
However, it also shows that funding can induce reinforcement effects. Reinforcement effects occur when, as a result of an efficiency measure, there is a change in behavior that leads to further savings, so that the savings effect of an efficiency measure is strengthened. These effects can occur in connection with subsidies if an energy efficiency measure was visibly successful. The extent to which reinforcement and rebound are balanced cannot be estimated from the empirical material. Energy management systems have even more promising potential for reinforcement effects. The systematic recording of energy and cost savings achieved through efficiency measures makes it easier for the energy management teams to have funds available for further measures after a measure has been successfully implemented and thus to tie up part of the saved funds for further increases in efficiency. However, in order for the reinforcement potential to actually be exploited, certain framework conditions must be in place.