The Long Run Demand for Lighting: Elasticities and Rebound Effects in Different Phases of Economic Development
Pearson, Peter J. G.
The provision of artificial light was revolutionised by a series of discontinuous innovations in lighting appliances, fuels, infrastructures and institutions during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Britain, the real price of lighting fell dramatically (3,000-fold between 1800 and 2000) and quality rose. Along with rises in real income and population, these developments meant that total consumption of lighting was 40,000 times greater by2000 than in 1800. The paper presents estimates of the income and price elasticities of demand for lighting services over the past three hundred years, and explores how they evolved. Income and price elasticities increased dramatically (to 3.5 and -1.7, respectively) between the 1840s and the 1890s and fell rapidly in the twentieth century. Even in the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first century, rebound effects in the lighting market still appear to be potentially important. This paper provides a first case study of the long run effects of socio-economic change and technological innovation on the consumption of energy services in the UK. We suggest that understanding the evolution of the demand for energy services and the factors that influence it contributes to a better understanding of future energy uses and associated greenhouse gas emissions.