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Title: Market and behavioral barriers to energy efficiency: A preliminary evaluation of the case for tariff financing in California

Abstract

Consumers regularly forgo purchases of high efficiency appliances that appear to be cost effective at a reasonable rate of return. While some argue that this is a true revelation of preferences for appliance features, this 'efficiency gap' can be largely explained by a combination of market and behavioral failures that reduce consumers ability to evaluate the relative value of appliances and skew preferences toward initial cost savings, undervaluing future reductions in operating costs. These failures and barriers include externalities of energy use, imperfect competition between manufacturers, asymmetric information, bounded rationality, split incentives, and transaction costs (Golove 1996). Recognizing the social benefit of energy conservation, several major methods are used by policymakers to ensure that efficient appliances are purchased: minimum efficiency standards, Energy Star labeling, and rebates and tax credits. There is no single market for energy services; there are hundreds of uses, thousands of intermediaries, and millions of users, and likewise, no single appropriate government intervention (Golove 1996). Complementary approaches must be implemented, considering policy and institutional limitations. In this paper, I first lay out the rationale for government intervention by addressing the market and behavioral failures and barriers that arise in the context of residential energy efficiency. I thenmore » consider the ways in which some of these failures and barriers are addressed through major federal programs and state and utility level programs that leverage them, as well as identifying barriers that are not addressed by currently implemented programs. Heterogeneity of consumers, lack of financing options, and split incentives of landlords and tenants contribute significantly to the under-adoption of efficient appliances. To quantify the size of the market most affected by these barriers, I estimate the number of appliances, and in particular the number of outdated appliances, in California rental housing. Appliances in rental housing are on average older than those in owner occupied housing. More importantly, a substantial proportion of very old appliances are in rental housing. Having established that a very old stock of appliances exists in California rental housing, I discuss tariff financing as a policy option to reduce the impact of the remaining market and behavioral barriers. In a tariff financing program, the utility pays the initial cost of an appliance, and is repaid through subsequent utility bills. By eliminating upfront costs, tying repayment to the gas or electric meter, requiring a detailed energy audit, and relying upon utility bill payment history rather than credit score in determining participant eligibility, tariff financing largely overcomes many barriers to energy efficiency. Using California as a case study, I evaluate the feasibility of implementing tariff financing. For water heaters in particular, this appears to be a cost-effective strategy. Tariff financing from utilities is particularly valuable because it improves the ability of low-income renters to lower their utility bills, without burdening landlords with unrecoverable capital costs. To implement tariff financing country-wide, regulations in many states defining private loan-making institutions or the allowable use of public benefit funds may need to be modified. Tariff financing is relatively new and in most locations is only available as a pilot program or has only recently exited pilot phase. This preliminary evaluation suggests that tariff financing is a valuable future addition to the toolkit of policymakers who aim to increase the diffusion of efficient appliances. While regulatory approval is necessary in states that wish to pursue tariff financing, at this point, the major barrier to further implementation appears to be the newness of the financing mechanism.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
Environmental Energy Technologies Division
OSTI Identifier:
1050714
Report Number(s):
LBNL-4823E
TRN: US201218%%1066
DOE Contract Number:  
DE-AC02-05CH11231
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; APPLIANCES; CALIFORNIA; CAPITALIZED COST; DIFFUSION; EFFICIENCY; ENERGY AUDITS; ENERGY CONSERVATION; ENERGY EFFICIENCY; EVALUATION; EXTERNAL COST; FINANCING; IMPLEMENTATION; MANUFACTURERS; MARKET; OPERATING COST; REGULATIONS; STARS; TARIFFS; TAX CREDITS; WATER HEATERS; tariff financing, residential appliances, energy efficiency

Citation Formats

Fujita, K Sydny. Market and behavioral barriers to energy efficiency: A preliminary evaluation of the case for tariff financing in California. United States: N. p., 2011. Web. doi:10.2172/1050714.
Fujita, K Sydny. Market and behavioral barriers to energy efficiency: A preliminary evaluation of the case for tariff financing in California. United States. https://doi.org/10.2172/1050714
Fujita, K Sydny. 2011. "Market and behavioral barriers to energy efficiency: A preliminary evaluation of the case for tariff financing in California". United States. https://doi.org/10.2172/1050714. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1050714.
@article{osti_1050714,
title = {Market and behavioral barriers to energy efficiency: A preliminary evaluation of the case for tariff financing in California},
author = {Fujita, K Sydny},
abstractNote = {Consumers regularly forgo purchases of high efficiency appliances that appear to be cost effective at a reasonable rate of return. While some argue that this is a true revelation of preferences for appliance features, this 'efficiency gap' can be largely explained by a combination of market and behavioral failures that reduce consumers ability to evaluate the relative value of appliances and skew preferences toward initial cost savings, undervaluing future reductions in operating costs. These failures and barriers include externalities of energy use, imperfect competition between manufacturers, asymmetric information, bounded rationality, split incentives, and transaction costs (Golove 1996). Recognizing the social benefit of energy conservation, several major methods are used by policymakers to ensure that efficient appliances are purchased: minimum efficiency standards, Energy Star labeling, and rebates and tax credits. There is no single market for energy services; there are hundreds of uses, thousands of intermediaries, and millions of users, and likewise, no single appropriate government intervention (Golove 1996). Complementary approaches must be implemented, considering policy and institutional limitations. In this paper, I first lay out the rationale for government intervention by addressing the market and behavioral failures and barriers that arise in the context of residential energy efficiency. I then consider the ways in which some of these failures and barriers are addressed through major federal programs and state and utility level programs that leverage them, as well as identifying barriers that are not addressed by currently implemented programs. Heterogeneity of consumers, lack of financing options, and split incentives of landlords and tenants contribute significantly to the under-adoption of efficient appliances. To quantify the size of the market most affected by these barriers, I estimate the number of appliances, and in particular the number of outdated appliances, in California rental housing. Appliances in rental housing are on average older than those in owner occupied housing. More importantly, a substantial proportion of very old appliances are in rental housing. Having established that a very old stock of appliances exists in California rental housing, I discuss tariff financing as a policy option to reduce the impact of the remaining market and behavioral barriers. In a tariff financing program, the utility pays the initial cost of an appliance, and is repaid through subsequent utility bills. By eliminating upfront costs, tying repayment to the gas or electric meter, requiring a detailed energy audit, and relying upon utility bill payment history rather than credit score in determining participant eligibility, tariff financing largely overcomes many barriers to energy efficiency. Using California as a case study, I evaluate the feasibility of implementing tariff financing. For water heaters in particular, this appears to be a cost-effective strategy. Tariff financing from utilities is particularly valuable because it improves the ability of low-income renters to lower their utility bills, without burdening landlords with unrecoverable capital costs. To implement tariff financing country-wide, regulations in many states defining private loan-making institutions or the allowable use of public benefit funds may need to be modified. Tariff financing is relatively new and in most locations is only available as a pilot program or has only recently exited pilot phase. This preliminary evaluation suggests that tariff financing is a valuable future addition to the toolkit of policymakers who aim to increase the diffusion of efficient appliances. While regulatory approval is necessary in states that wish to pursue tariff financing, at this point, the major barrier to further implementation appears to be the newness of the financing mechanism.},
doi = {10.2172/1050714},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1050714}, journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2011},
month = {6}
}