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Energy efficiency: What has research delivered in the last 40 years?

01 November, 2021

Energy efficiency: What has research delivered in the last 40 years?

Roger Fouquet

Michael Grubb

Robert Lowe

Tadj Oreszczyn

Steven Robert Sorrell

Research paper  

Harry D. Saunders, Joyashree Roy, Inês M.L. Azevedo, Debalina Chakravarty, Shyamasree Dasgupta, Stephane de la Rue du Can, Angela Druckman, Roger Fouquet, Michael Grubb, Boqiang Lin, Robert Lowe, Reinhard Madlener, Daire M. McCoy, Luis Mundaca, Tadj Oreszczyn, Steven Sorrell, David Stern, Kanako Tanaka and Taoyuan Wei

This article presents a critical assessment of 40 years of research that may be brought under the umbrella of energy efficiency, spanning different aggregations and domains—from individual producing and consuming agents to economy-wide effects to the role of innovation to the influence of policy. After 40 years of research, energy efficiency initiatives are generally perceived as highly effective. Innovation has contributed to lowering energy technology costs and increasing energy productivity. Energy efficiency programs in many cases have reduced energy use per unit of economic output and have been associated with net improvements in welfare, emission reductions, or both. Rebound effects at the macro level still warrant careful policy attention, as they may be nontrivial. Complexity of energy efficiency dynamics calls for further methodological and empirical advances, multidisciplinary approaches, and granular data at the service level for research in this field to be of greatest societal benefit.

Publication details

Saunders, H.D., Roy, J., Azevedo, I.M.L., Chakravarty, D., Dasgupta, S., de la Rue du Can, S., Druckman, A., Fouquet, R., Grubb, M., Lin, B., Lowe, R., Madlener, R., McCoy, D.M., Mundaca, L., Oreszczyn, T., Sorrell, S., Stern, D., Tanaka, K., and Wei, T. 2021. Energy efficiency: What has research delivered in the last 40 years? Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 46: 135–165. doi: 10.1146/annurev-environ-012320-084937Opens in a new tab  

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