NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Prospect Theory and Energy Efficiency

Garth Heutel

NBER Working Paper No. 23692
Issued in August 2017
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Economics

Investments in energy efficiency entail uncertainty, and when faced with uncertainty consumers have been shown to behave according to prospect theory: preferences are reference-dependent and exhibit loss aversion, and probabilities are subjectively weighted. Using data from a choice experiment eliciting prospect theory parameters, I provide evidence that loss-averse people are less likely to invest in energy efficiency. Then, I consider policy design under prospect theory when there are also externalities from energy use. A higher degree of loss aversion implies a higher subsidy to energy efficiency. Numerical simulations suggest that the impact of prospect theory on policy may be substantial.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23692

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