Much academic attention has been directed at analysing energy efficiency investments through the lens of ‘behavioural failure’. These studies have challenged the neoclassical framing of regulation which emphasises the efficiency benefits of price based policy, underpinned by the notion of rational individual self-mastery. The increasing use of a regulatory ban on electric lamps in many countries is one of the most recent and high profile flash points in this dialectic of ‘freedom-versus-the-state’ in the public policy discourse. This paper interrogates this debate through a study of electric lamp diffusion in Germany. It is argued that neoclassical theory and equilibrium analysis is inadequate as a tool for policy analysis as it takes the formation of market institutions, such as existing regulations, for granted. Further still, it may be prone to encourage idealistic debates around such grand narratives which may in practice simply serve those who benefit most from the status quo. Instead we argue for an evolutionary approach which we suggest offers a more pragmatic framing tool which focuses on the formation of market institutions in light of shifting social norms and political goals-in our case, progress towards energy efficiency and environmental goals. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Former Research Fellow Nicholas is an applied economist specializing in economic growth, energy and natural resource and environmental economics. He was leading KAPSARC… Nicholas is an applied economist specializing in economic growth, energy and natural resource and environmental economics. He was leading KAPSARC research on energy productivity and is a subject matter expert on energy efficiency, industrial strategy and energy pricing with KAPSARC Advisory. He has received several awards for his published work, including recognition for his first book on carbon markets by the American benchmarking journal Choice as a top 25 academic publication in the category of economics in 2010. Nicholas is an experienced policy advisory, thought leader and project manager with strengths in interdisciplinary issues and applied policy gained from working as a ministerial adviser in Australia and in a variety of international roles. He is also an experienced lecturer and public speaker on energy productivity, green growth and sustainable development and has presented work at a range of technical and policy fora including meetings of the International Association of Energy Economists and in support of the G20 Energy and Sustainability Working Group and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals processes.