CATCH interim report


Results of the consumer survey of e-car use in Austria

Use of electric cars in Lower Austria

Use of electric cars in Salzburg

Results of the consumer survey of building insulation in Austria

Building insulation in Austria


Athavale Shruti and Knaus Karina (2017): Energy Efficiency Policies and the Rebound Effect: Review of International Instruments and Recommendations for Austria

Abstract. The paper reviews a number of policy instruments related to the improvement of energy efficiency, such as fiscal, awareness-raising and regulatory measures. We conclude that based on the reviewed literature rebound may play an important role in designing policies aimed at increasing energy efficiency, although estimates vary widely between 1 and 60 per cent. Looking at various sectors, namely transport, consumer goods and buildings & heating, we therefore conclude that rebound effects do play a potential role in all energy efficiency polices. However, numerous rebound mitigation and accompanying measures exist that can address at least some of the adverse effects created by direct, indirect and economy-wide rebound. In particular, we find that the interaction between fiscal and other measures such as labels & standards or awareness raising campaigns can provide a useful avenue towards the optimal policy mix.


Fruhmann C., Tuerk A., Kulmer V., Seebauer S. (2017): System complexity as key determinant in achieving efficacious policy transposition and implementation: The case of energy efficient technology adoption for heating and mobility in Austrian households. In: The Green Market Transition: Carbon Taxes, Energy Subsidies and Smart Instrument Mixes. Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation Series. Edward Elgar Publishing 2017.

Abstract. Policy implementation and transposition do not take place in a „vacuum“, but are influenced by a variety of surrounding factors, stakeholder agendas and by socioeconomic or institutional boundaries. All factors together are shaping the policy performance. Consequently, understanding a policies surrounding context is crucial for efficacious policy transposition and implementation. This paper analyses how policies unfold their performance within a pre-existing system using the example of low carbon and energy efficient technology adoption for mobility and heating demand in Austrian households. For both areas, findings show a mainly subsidy based policy framework often lacking innovative solutions and being strongly influenced by surrounding contextual factors and stakeholder constellations. Our findings in combination with lessons learned from Europe-wide best practice examples highlight the importance and benefit of smart policy mixes in future policy design. In particular, our analysis reveals that smart policy mixes are more robust and easier adaptable concerning influences of complex system correlations, thus not only in the case of low carbon and energy efficient technology adoption in Austrian households but also for policy design in general.


Seebauer, S. (2018): The psychology of rebound effects: Explaining energy efficiency rebound behaviours with electric vehicles and building insulation in Austria. Energy Research & Social Science, 46, 311-320. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2018.08.006.

Abstract. Rebound effects may undermine current energy policy pathways centred on more energy efficient technologies. The present study analyses why household-level rebound occurs after purchasing an electric vehicle or installing building insulation. Direct and indirect rebound behaviour are operationalised as rearrangements of consumption patterns over time, drawing on concepts of mental accounting and compensatory behaviours. Structural equation modelling is applied to cross-sectional survey data on adopters of electric cars (n=575) and building insulation (n=1,455) in Austria. A complementary longitudinal sample of adopters of electric bicycles (n=111) validates the findings. Pro-environmental values and, albeit more weakly, personal norms for environmentally conscious consumption counteract rebound behaviour. Social norms for environmentally conscious consumption increase rebound. Values of frugality and modesty show no discernible impact. These drivers apply similarly to all energy efficiency technologies investigated. In the case of building insulation, low-income and energy-poor households are more liable to rebound; moreover, habitual heating practices increase rebound. Policy design could leverage the drivers studied here to combat rebound, for instance by prioritising consumer segments with a lower risk of rebound, or by supporting rebound-averse mindsets in public communication. Future research should conduct longitudinal studies to strengthen causal inferences about changes in consumption patterns over time.

A working paper version is available as: Seebauer S. (2017): Individual Drivers for Direct and Indirect Rebound Effects: A Survey Study of Electric Vehicles and Building Insulation in Austria. FCN Working Paper No. 17/2017, Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior, RWTH Aachen University, November.


Kulmer V., Seebauer S. (2019). How robust are estimates of the rebound effect of energy efficiency improvements? A sensitivity analysis of consumer heterogeneity and elasticities. Energy Policy, 132, 1-14. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2019.05.001.

Abstract. Economy-wide rebound effects may undermine climate policies relying on energy efficiency improvements. However, available rebound estimates diverge widely. We illustrate the crucial role of model assumptions of household heterogeneity and elasticities. A computable general equilibrium model of the Austrian economy incorporates multiple household groups with heterogeneous preferences and analyzes how improving efficiency by 10% affects household fossil fuel consumption. In the base model, economy-wide rebound is 65%; different household groups show direct rebound of 8-12%; thus, economy-wide rebound is mainly advanced by indirect rebound. A sensitivity analysis using Monte Carlo simulation varies elasticities between household groups, namely substitutability between material and energy goods, and between different energy goods. In 160 simulation runs, the economy-wide rebound emerges as rather robust. By contrast, direct rebound varies widely among household groups and attains 30%, where reciprocal feedback between groups builds up. In the base model, a fossil fuel tax rate of 43% neutralizes the economy-wide rebound. When elasticities in 180 simulation runs are varied, this tax rate spans from 15% to 80%. Thus, rebound estimates and derived policy advice, such as specific rates and numbers, should be treated with great caution, unless elasticity parameters are reliable and account for heterogeneous consumer preferences.

As working paper version is available as: Kulmer V., Seebauer S. (2017): How Robust are Estimates of the Rebound Effect of Energy Efficiency Improvements? A Sensitivity Analysis of Consumer Heterogeneity and Elasticities. FCN Working Paper No. 16/2017, Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior, RWTH Aachen University, November.


Seebauer, S., Kulmer, V., Fruhmann, C. (2019). Promoting adoption while avoiding rebound. Integrating disciplinary perspectives on market diffusion and carbon impacts of electric cars and building renovations in Austria. Energy, Sustainability and Society, 9(1), 26. doi:10.1186/s13705-019-0212-5.

Background. Many countries state ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions. Their policy strategies emphasize energy efficiency by means of technological innovations. However, these strategies are at risk of severe rebound effects, as savings from more efficient products and facilities may be (over‑)compensated by rearrangements in consumer behavior. While rebound effects are widely acknowledged, it is less clear how they arise from the complex interactions between market actors, consumer preferences and policy initiatives.

Results. We propose a simplified representation of these complex dynamics, in order to point out levers for counteracting rebound effects. A pathway mapping integrates results from fuzzy cognitive mapping of expert knowledge, from a household survey on adoption and use and from macroeconomic modelling of energy efficiency policies. Core drivers identified across all methods are joined to a cause-and-effect diagram. The respective strengths of influence are standardized to effect coefficients. By tracing policy impulses through the web of interlinked drivers, the pathway mapping illustrates direct, mediated and unintended impacts on market diffusion, rebound and carbon emission reductions of energy efficient technologies. Pathway mapping is demonstrated as an approach for integrating diverse disciplinary methods into a joint narrative illustrating overarching dynamics.

Conclusions. Applying this methodology to building renovations and electric cars in Austria, the need to balance technology adoption and use becomes apparent. Convergent drivers stimulate the market uptake of the energy efficient technology, and simultaneously constrain rebound effects. For instance, educating customers on product features and activating their pro-environmental values, encourages technology adoption as well as ecological use. Contrastingly, divergent drivers have opposing effects on adoption and use. For example, fuel taxes counteract rebound, but also hinder adoption by increasing lifetime costs. Higher income enables adopters to carry upfront investment costs, but also increases spending in other, carbon-intensive consumption domains. The pathway maps show that market-oriented instruments promote the adoption of energy-efficient technologies but also the rebound effect in their subsequent use. Policy interventions should be carefully designed to leverage convergent and to circumnavigate divergent drivers in order to address multiple impact paths. Climate strategies should not underestimate the role of socio-psychological characteristics and key actors.


Kulmer V., Seebauer S., Fruhmann C. (2020). Wie können Widersprüche zwischen Marktdurchdringung und Rebound-Vermeidung gelöst werden? Systemanalyse konvergenter und divergenter Einflussfaktoren an den Beispielen E-Auto und Gebäudesanierung. fteval Journal for Research and Technology Policy Evaluation, 50, 51-59. doi:10.22163/fteval.2020.470.

Abstract. Politikstrategien zur kohlenstoffarmen Transformation treiben die breite Markteinführung energieeffizienter Technologien voran, übersehen aber oft die damit verbundenen Reboundeffekte. Der Beitrag illustriert grundlegende Konflikte zwischen Technologieadoption und –nutzung an den Beispielen E-Autos und Gebäudesanierung. Systemmodelle führen die Ergebnisse von drei komplementären Forschungsmethoden zusammen: fuzzy cognitive mapping von Expertenwissen, Haushaltsbefragung und makroökonomische Analyse. Indem Politikimpulse durch das Wirkungsgeflecht verschiedener Einflussfaktoren verfolgt werden, können Hebelelemente für gezielte politische Maßnahmen bestimmt werden. Konvergente Einflussfaktoren (z.B. Umweltwerte) begünstigen den Markteintritt der Technologie und schwächen gleichzeitig Reboundeffekte ab. Divergente Einflussfaktoren (z.B. Einkommen) beschleunigen die Technologieadoption, ermöglichen aber auch späteren Rebound. Die Vermeidung von indirektem Rebound ist kritisch für die Realisierung von CO2-Einsparungen. Anstelle von Einzelmaßnahmen sind Maßnahmenbündel zu empfehlen, die mehrere Wirkungskanäle ansprechen, etwa durch eine Kombination von fiskalpolitischen Instrumenten, bewusstseinsbildenden Kampagnen und Schulungen von Marktakteuren.