Environment and Resources

Research Focus

Environmental and Energy Policy

This research focus addresses environmental and energy policy measures using modern methods of evaluation research and microeconometric analysis. We employ a comprehensive approach that covers all steps of the evaluation process: study design, survey implementation, data analysis, and policy recommendations. Throughout the process, we maintain a tight connection to practice, ensured through regular consultation with stakeholders and verification activities in the field.

RWI’s research covers both domestic energy issues as well as international topics. The institute has established itself as a leading authority on the evaluation of policy interventions that address the poverty-environment nexus in developing countries. As of January 2015, a dedicated research group, "Climate Change in Developing Countries", investigates issues affecting both households and small businesses in the fight against poverty, including access to energy and microfinance.

On the domestic front, the promotion of renewable energy in Germany as well as the voluntary commitment of German industry to climate protection and energy efficiency are other areas of inquiry in which RWI plays a highly visible role. Since the promulgation of voluntary climate protection agreements of German industry more than a decade ago, RWI has monitored these commitments scientifically on behalf of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries and federal ministries. This work includes the review of annual reports that document progress toward industry commitments to successively increase energy efficiency. The European Commission places a high priority on timely monitoring as the ultimate basis for the approval of the aid via offsets of the electricity tax.

Not least, the research department addresses the impact of technology transfer and technology development in environmental protection.

Environmental, Energy and Resource Economics

At the center of this research is the study of energy consumption and demand patterns of households, focusing primarily on individual mobility and residential electricity use. A cross-cutting theme is the analysis of rebound effects, which refer to the behavioral responses of individuals to improved technological efficiency. With respect to driving, for example, efficiency improvements that lower the per-kilometer costs of driving may encourage motorists to drive more, thereby offsetting the emissions reduction that would have otherwise occurred. RWI has been involved in several projects on this topic, leading to numerous publications in the energy and transport journals.

This research has been supported by an ambitious and on-going effort to assemble panel data on the energy consumption of private households. Building on data collected for the years 2003 to 2010, this representative dataset was recently expanded to include 8500 households for the years 2011 up to 2013 under the commission of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and in cooperation with the polling institute forsa. In addition to surveying households on their energy consumption, data is collected about their living conditions and socio-economic characteristics. The resulting assembly of data allows a multitude of scientific studies that extends beyond energy consumption to also include the implications of Germany’s Energiewende for the energy cost burden of low-income households.

In addition, the department deals with behavioral economic issues related to environmental and energy consumption. This includes the examination of non-financial mechanisms for changing consumer behavior, such as the provision of energy-saving tips.

Finally, RWI is a participant of the subproject A3, "Dynamic modeling of production technologies", which is a component of the Collaborative Research Center SFB 823 "Statistical modeling of nonlinear dynamic processes", a project funded by the German Science Foundation.