A critique of Saunders' 'Historical evidence for energy efficiency rebound in 30 U.S. sectors'

A critique of Saunders' 'Historical evidence for energy efficiency rebound in 30 U.S. sectors'
Technological Forecasting and Social Change 103: 203–213 (2016) (with Jonathan G. Koomey), doi 10.1016/j.techfore.2015.08.007

A widely read 2011 report from the Breakthrough Institute found that energy efficiency improvements are generally subject to high rebound effects, and often backfire—the extreme case in which rebound effects overwhelm reductions in energy consumption due to efficiency. The primary line of evidence for this conclusion came from Dr. Harry Saunders' then-unpublished analysis of rebound effects in the U.S. economy. Here, we show that Dr. Saunders severely misunderstood the limits of his own data, a finding that invalidates his results and calls into question his paper's role in the Breakthrough Institute's public relations campaign criticizing the viability of energy efficiency as a climate mitigation strategy. 

  • Summary blog post (with Jonathan G. Koomey).
  • Supplemental technical information is available at the journal website and also here.