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The Economics of Energy Efficiency, a Historical Perspective

Louis-Gaëtan Giraudet () and Antoine Missemer
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Louis-Gaëtan Giraudet: CIRED - Centre international de recherche sur l'environnement et le développement - Cirad - Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement - AgroParisTech - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech

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Abstract: Energy efficiency can be considered as a central pillar of global warming mitigation, with important co-benefits, including productivity gains, resource conservation or national security. It is also a subject of controversy between engineers and economists, who have divergent conceptions of the notion of optimality that delineates energy efficiency potentials. Modern surveys hardly go back beyond the 1970s and do not fully explore the reasons and conditions for the persistent differences between economists' and engineers' views. This paper provides such a historical account, investigating the positioning of economic analysis in contrast to the technical expertise on key energy efficiency topics – the rebound effect, the energy efficiency gap, and green nudges, from the 19th century to the present day. It highlights the permanence and evolution in the relationship that economists have had with technical expertise. An extension of the current conceptual framework is finally provided to connect our historical findings with avenues for future research.

Keywords: engineering; nudge; history of economic thought; energy efficiency; market barriers and failures (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-env, nep-his, nep-hpe and nep-reg
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