<a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Can rebates change behaviour?

Rebate money

Credit: iStockphoto

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The decision by the Senate to pass legislation giving Australia a 20 per cent renewable energy target can potentially change our behaviour and consumption patterns. Or will it?

The legislation (described in G's news story here and summarised here) brings in a number of important changes, including more Renewable Energy Certificates for clean energy installations.

It’s also great news for the solar industry, with the implementation of a solar credit scheme.

All this on top of all the green rebates now on offer, as detailed in the May/June issue of G Magazine and summarised here. Everything from ceiling insulation to solar hot water systems to rainwater tanks and greywater systems is covered.

Interestingly, the Yellow Pages internet directory has found massive changes in potential consumption patterns with all the rebates on offer. Analysing its online data, it found that searches for insulation contractors jumped 259 per cent in the three months to the end of July, for example, compared with the same period last year. Searches for people in the gas conversion trade had soared 150 per cent.

But how much will all this change behaviour?

Energy demand can be 'unelastic', that is, unresponsive to price rises. Witness for example the howls of outrage from Australian motorists about the price of petrol and people spending less because of the global financial meltdown. Despite that, sales of medium sized and luxury SUVs were still trending up in July, according to figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Maybe governments need to double the price of electricity and petrol to change behaviour. But that’s unlikely to happen. Still, the rebates and incentives are steps in the right direction.

How much do you think rebates will change consumer behaviour and force people to become more climate conscious? What else should be done?