Energy Efficiency Versus Gains in Consumer Amenities
Doctoral thesis, 2010
This thesis, consisting of five papers, addresses the question of what share of technological development results in increased energy efficiency rather than offsetting improved consumer services in the form of gains in consumer amenities?
In the first paper economic and organizational explanations are given for stagnating energy efficiency trends in the Swedish residential building sector. The results show that changes in energy prices to a large extent explain the observed stagnation. We also find potential organizational barriers and weaknesses in the learning process.
The four other papers analyze trends in new cars sold in Sweden between 1985 and 2007. In Paper II and IV the interactions between service features, technological development and fuel consumption are analyzed for 1985-2002 (Paper II) and 2002-2007 (Paper IV). Car parameters connected to service features, such as passenger space, acceleration capacity, weight and maximum power continue to increase during both time periods. The implication is that between 1985 and 2002 65 % of the enhanced technology and design served to meet consumer amenities such as increased passenger space and improved acceleration. The remaining 35 % resulted in a net reduction in specific fuel consumption. For the following five years the relationship had seemingly shifted, however, had there not been an increased share of diesel cars the offset would have been 70 %.
Paper III studies a possible downsizing of the Swedish new car fleet between 1985 and 2002, both from a market perspective, i.e., shifting to smaller less powerful cars, and technological, i.e., the use of technologies that enable smaller engines. The study finds few signs of a downsizing. From a market perspective larger cars are still dominant and the technical potentials to reduce engine size have not been fully harnessed.
The fifth paper studies the decision process behind purchasing a new car through qualitative interviews with key stakeholders. The main result is that there has been a shift in the market toward increased environmental awareness. This does not always mean that criteria such as roominess and engine power are reconsidered. The environmental criterion is instead addressed by shifting fuels to diesel or ethanol.
Concluding, the reduction of specific fuel consumption in the Swedish new car fleet is not due to a shift in trends away from improved service features, such as large vehicles with faster acceleration, but rather a shift in fuel type. This implies that a major part of the technological development continues to result in gains in consumer amenities rather than increased energy efficiency.