Meeting Details
On the Rebound - could energy efficiency improvements backfire?"
Thursday 14th May 2009

Cambridge Energy Forum and The Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR), University of Cambridge held a joint-seminar at the Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge.

The "Rebound Effect" is also known as the "Jevons Paradox" and it is the effect whereby increased energy efficiency can increase, not decrease, energy consumption. It has immediate political implications and is still widely misunderstood. The event will describe: a) what the rebound effect is b) how it manifests itself c) what we can do about it.

When the rebound effect is greater than 100%, then this is the Khazzoom-Brookes (K-B) postulate: "if energy prices do not change, cost effective energy efficiency improvements will inevitably increase economy-wide energy consumption above what it would be without those improvements."

Click here for a list of publications related to "the rebound effect".

Full details of this meeting also appear on the 4CMR website:

Energy efficiency measures must be accompanied by policies to cap carbon emissions and put a price on carbon. This was the message from a seminar on the rebound effect, organised by 4CMR and the Cambridge Energy Forum. Energy savings from increased efficiency are almost never as high as they appear, because people or businesses increase energy use in response to the saving, either in the same energy activity or elsewhere. While it remains difficult to precisely quantify this rebound effect, it is clear that it is very unlikely to be zero.

The latest economic modelling research, carried out by Terry Barker, Athanasios Dagoumas and Jonathan Rubin of 4CMR, estimates that the global rebound effect would be around 50% by 2030, in response to ‘no regret’ energy efficiency measures proposed by the International Energy Agency. Earlier research suggested that the rebound effect was about 25% for UK energy efficiency policies.

Press coverage: the Guardian

Presentations from "On the Rebound: could energy efficiency improvements backfire?" available here:

The rebound effect: Mechanisms, evidence and implications
Steve Sorrell, Sussex Energy Group

The Global Macroeconomic Rebound Effect of Energy Efficiency Policies: an analysis 2012-2030 using E3MG
Dr Terry Barker, Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research

Responses to increased energy efficiency in the real world
Prof Roger Kemp, Lancaster University

The Rebound Effect: introduction and historical perspective
Blake Alcott, Independent Researcher

Speakers, panelist and chairs included:

  1. Hugh Parnell, Cambridge Energy Forum
  2. Dr Terry Barker, 4CMR, University of Cambridge
  3. Dr Philip Sargent, Cambridge Energy Forum
  4. Steven Sorrell, University of Sussex
  5. Blake Alcott, independent researcher
  6. Prof Roger Kemp, Lancaster University
  7. Dr Tim Foxon, University of Leeds
  8. Tina Dallman, DECC

Programme: On the rebound: could energy efficiency improvements backfire?

The event was chaired by Hugh Parnell

13:30 Coffee and registration

14:00 Welcome
Dr Terry Barker and Dr Philip Sargent

14:10 The rebound effect: introduction and historical perspective
Blake Alcott

14:35 Global macroeconomic rebound effect
Dr Terry Barker

15:00 The rebound effect - evidence and implications
Steven Sorell

15:25 Responses to increased energy efficiency in the real world
Prof Roger Kemp

15:50 Tea break

16:20 Panel session and questions: What we can do about it?
Chair: Dr Terry Barker
Panelists: Dr Tim Foxon, Prof Roger Kemp, Steven Sorrell, Tina Dallman

17:10 Concluding remarks
Dr Terry Barker and Dr Philip Sargent

Attendance was free, but prior registration was required.

Hugh Parnell co-founder Cambridge Energy Forum, Chairman Envirotech Ltd, manager Cambridge Network “cleantech” SIG, non-exec NW Brown and of several other companies, corporate finance, early stage business support etc Since qualifying as a chartered accountant Hugh has had a diverse career centred around finance, management and business development. With 16 years in diverse roles with British Petroleum followed by 6 years in the City doing international corporate finance, he had had enough flying around when, in 2000, he joined the Cambridge technology/innovation community. NW Brown is a regional finance advisory company, where Hugh initially headed a corporate finance activity and then took responsibility for its early stage VC, business angels and ‘access to finance’ activities around high-tech Cambridge. He acquired mandates amounting to managing a suite of early stage venture funds totalling £40m. Since early 2007 Hugh has divided his time between consulting to the NW Brown Group and its legacy business angels and the early stage funds’ activities, and engaging with other companies directly to help with their growth and development. He is a ‘mentor’ for ExDRA, consults to the UEA’s Low Carbon Innovation Centre, helps the Cambridge Network, i10, ICAEW, ARU and similar. Since 2002 he has been involved in supporting environmental and energy technology companies i) as Chairman of business support organisation Envirotech Ltd, ii) co-founding the Cambridge Energy Forum and iii) starting the Special Interest Group on ‘cleantech’ for the Cambridge Network.

Dr Terry Barker is Director of 4CMR (Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research), Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, Leader of the Tyndall Centre's Integrated Modelling programme of research and Chairman of Cambridge Econometrics. He was a Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001) and the Fourth Assessment Report (2007) for the chapter on mitigation from a cross-sectoral perspective, covering the macroeconomic costs of mitigation at national, regional and global levels in the short and medium term (to 2030). Research interests are in GHG mitigation policy, large-scale computable energy-environment-economy and world energy modelling. He has directed and co-ordinated many large projects building and applying large-scale economic models of the UK, the European Union and the global economy. He has edited or authored some 12 books and 100 articles and papers.

Dr Philip Sargent is a co-founder of the Cambridge Energy Forum and takes a lead in developing its programme of work. He has extensive knowledge of energy technologies internationally and in 2009 spent a month in Jakarta advising government departments on climate change policies. Philip had had a university research career as a physical metallurgist working in product design and materials selection at Cambridge, Technion and Carnegie Mellon universities where he was a visiting professor.

Blake Alcott grew up in the Oil Capitol of the World (Tulsa, Oklahoma), got a B.A. in philosophy from Connecticut Wesleyan in 1968, dropped out in Manhattan, did his obligatory full-bearded motorcycle trip around the world, migrated to Zürich in 1973, worked as a self-employed cabinetmaker till 2001 and has since read and written on ecological economics, including a year actually learning something while getting an MPhil in Land Economy (the research Option A) in 2006. Please go to for a list of publications, accessible as pdfs except for a book chapter from Earthscan’s 2008 title The Jevons Paradox.

Steven Sorell trained as an electrical engineer and spent four years working in industrial R&D laboratories before gaining a MSc in Science & Technology Policy in 1990. Since joining SPRU he has undertaken a range of research on energy and environmental policy, with particular focus on energy modelling, energy efficiency and emissions trading. This work is primarily informed by economics and has included case studies, statistical analysis and modelling. Steve has published three books, eighteen papers in refereed journals, twelve book chapters and more than one hundred research reports. He has acted as consultant to the European Commission, DEFRA, DTI/BERR, the Environment Agency, the Sustainable Development Commission, private sector organisations and NGOs. Steve is currently deputy director of the ESRC-funded Sussex Energy Group (SEG) and co-managing the Technology and Policy Assessment function of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). He current research projects include energy use and sustainability in UK freight transport (SEG) and global oil depletion (UKERC).

Prof Roger Kemp is in the Engineering Department at Lancaster University. Prior to joining academia in 2003, he spent almost 30 years in the rail industry. In the 1970s he was in BR Research Department. In 1979 he left to join the Lucas Electric Vehicle Project as Development Manager. Two years later he rejoined the rail industry as Development Manager at GEC Traction. Later he became Engineering Director of GEC Transportation Projects where he was responsible for the engineering of projects as diverse as the Class 91 locomotive, Docklands Light Railway and systems integration on Line 4 of Seoul Subway. After the merger forming Alstom, Roger moved to France and spent two years as Directeur des Études d’Ensemble in the Paris head office and was later appointed Project Director of the consortium building Eurostar. Subsequently he worked on projects in Australia and Taiwan and, from 1997, was UK Technical and Safety Director for Alstom Transport. He retains his rail interests in Lancaster University as well as being a member of the sustainable energy group and is course director for the MSc in Safety Engineering.

Dr Tim Foxon is a Research Councils UK Academic Fellow in the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, focusing on exploring the conditions for the innovation and up-take of new energy technologies. He previously held research positions in the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR) at the University of Cambridge, and at the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology (ICEPT) at Imperial College London. His research interests include transition pathways, policy drivers and barriers for sustainable innovation, UK renewables innovation systems, macro-economic rebound effects and the application of complexity and evolutionary economics to sustainability issues. He has published a number of academic papers and policy reports, an edited book on ‘Innovation for a Low Carbon Economy’, and a report on low-carbon innovation for the Carbon Trust which has been widely cited.

Tina Dallman is an economic adviser in the Department of Energy and Climate Change currently working on domestic energy efficiency policies. She began her career at the Office of Fair trading as a competition economist before moving on to the Energy Group at the Department of Trade and Industry covering roles related to coal, electricity, oil and gas. As a member of the UK's climate change team she was a lead negotiator of the Kyoto Protocol and also spent three years working for the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn.

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