When Rhetoric Meets Reality - Implementing Policies Based On Market Failure: Some Observations From The Development And Delivery Of The UK’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme

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Abstract

The UK’s major energy efficiency programme of the last decade, the EEBPp, has been widely regarded as the canonical example of an approach which addresses market failures that result when insufficient or inappropriate information impedes the diffusion of energy efficiency technologies and techniques to all those who have an economic interest in using such information. OECD publication on energy efficiency policy cites the UK as a leading example of such an information programme, giving as the reason for its need the low level and poor quality of information about energy efficiency technologies. However, the development and delivery of this Programme has seen considerable attention given by the civil servants required to implement it to the skills, abilities and resources that individual firms require to install, configure and operate energy efficiency technologies and techniques. While therefore “dealing with market failure” has been a popular shorthand for the model of Programme operation, in practice, the Programme managers have relied upon broadening and deepening capacities of firms and also modifying the practices of those supplying firms with technologies and techniques. Information shortages for firms appear often not to be so important for technology choice and implementation as the resources of the firms themselves. A key theoretical distinction which is made between firms’ specific and common information costs also proves to be difficult to observe in practice. The operationalization of this major piece of the UK’s energy efficiency policy therefore suggests that the notion of market failure based on in informational problems of the market, while a useful construct, is problematic. The empirical work reported here on the implementation of Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme suggests that programme managers evaded the rhetorical requirements of policy and were able to deal with the capabilities of firms. (Consequently, energy efficiency information provided by government is not a pure public good.)
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPREST, University of Manchester
Volume02-10
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002

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