Jevon’s Paradox


The Jevon’s Paradox refers to a term in economics whereby an increase in efficiency, with regards to the use of a resource, does not result in reduced use of that resource but an increase. William Stanley Jevons observed this 150 years ago when increases in the efficiency of coal use resulted in increases in the use of coal.

I have some first hand experience with the Jevon’s Paradox. In most modern day homes you will find LED lighting. LED lighting uses a fraction of the energy of an equivalent incandescent light source. In older houses you would usually have a single light source in the centre of the room but with the advent of energy efficient lighting people have started using more of it. These days people appoint a lighting designer, they have main lighting, accent lighting and even lights in cupboards. It feels like the goal is to see how many light fittings you can cram into a room. The rationale for all these lights is that they are energy efficient. This is Jevon’s Paradox.

As soon as something creates the mental impression that it uses less we use it more, negating the effects of any efficiency gains. This is one of the main arguments against the belief that technology will save us regarding resource depletion. The only way to reduce your consumption is to use less. A new technology which will reduce your consumption, will only make you consume more in the end.


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