The Rebound Effect Happening for Earth Hour?
A shorter version of our previous article, Earth Hour – The Asymmetry Principle vs The Rebound Effect, was sent to the various newspapers before Saturday’s Earth Hour (attached below).
The reason why we wrote the letter and sent it to the media is because we worry that The Rebound Effect could be happening with more people switching to other substitute activities that consume more energy during Earth Hour. We wanted to remind everyone that we must take action to conserve energy daily and ensure that our actions do not contribute to the problem we are trying to solve.
Unfortunately, it seems that our worries came true. Today Online reported today that:
This year, the 400 Earth Hour participants in Singapore contributed to electricity consumption falling by 23 megawatts on Saturday – a drop that represented a mere 0.021 per cent of average electricity consumption for Saturdays, according to the Energy Market Authority (EMA).
The total reduction was only roughly half that of last year’s Earth Hour, when power consumption fell 42 megawatts.
World Wide Fund for Nature’s Earth Hour campaign manager Ms Carine Seror said: “There could a number of factors – people could have turned off the lights but not the air-conditioning. We’ll be asking EMA to help us interpret the numbers.”
This year’s Earth Hour saw more participants and organisations taking action with electricity consumption dropping by 23 MW, but this was half of last year’s 42 MW drop. Why is this happening? This is serious and has deep implications for future actions. The organisers must find out what’s wrong.
Is it due to The Rebound Effect?
Our letter to the media:
Earth Hour is back again and takes place this Saturday. Earth Hour is not just about switching off lights; it’s about two key forces at work – The Asymmetry Principle vs The Rebound Effect.
The Asymmetry Principle as described by the energy economist Peter Tertzakian, states that a unit of energy saved at the consuming end (lighting a light bulb) amplifies into multiple units of energy saved at the source (at the natural gas well). This is due to the inefficiencies and energy losses in fuel production, electricity generation, electricity transmission, and conversion to useful work.
When you switch off your lights or appliances during Earth Hour, it is not merely the act of pressing a switch but the amplifying effects of conserving the energy resources upstream. However, energy conservation must be done by everyone daily to make a significant difference such that The Asymmetry Principle plays out. Annual Earth Hour actions will be insufficient to effect an actual change in the reduction of energy resources.
The Rebound Effect refers to the behavioral responses to the introduction of energy efficiency measures, which tend to offset the actual benefits of the measures. For example, if you replace a 20W light bulb with a 10W energy efficient bulb, the energy saving should be 50%. However, the actual energy saving is usually less than 50% because as you pay less for lighting, you tend to be less concerned with switching it off. The increased usage thus eats away the energy savings from the more efficient bulb.
The Rebound Effect can be adapted to explain that actual energy savings could be less than expected savings from energy conservation. When you reduce energy from one activity but use more energy by switching to other substitute activities, the actual savings is less than expected savings. Everyone should support Earth Hour but we have to remind ourselves that the Earth Hour activities we take part in should not be using more energy as compared to our usual activities.
We need to see more of The Asymmetry Principle and less of The Rebound Effect. We need more people to switch off their lights and reduce their energy consumption daily so as to amplify the energy savings at the source. We need less people to switch to other substitute activities that consume more energy. So remember for this year’s Earth Hour, everyone must take action to conserve energy daily and ensure that our actions do not contribute to the problem we are trying to solve.
my paper published an edited version of our letter today:
Today published an edited version of our letter on 30 Mar.