Regulation of energy efficiency by voluntary agreement : South Africa's energy efficiency accord.
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Energy efficiency is an issue currently generating huge interest as a potentially costeffective solution to the twin challenges of environmental pollution from energy production, and the increasing scarcity of energy resources. This research aims to interrogate the practicalities of regulation of energy efficiency to ask what scope there is for public-led encouragement of greater energy savings in industry. Shortcomings of current theory addressed include a discounting of the impact of heterogeneity of industrial activity on prospects to effectively regulate for energy efficiency, and a conflation of the different aspects of societal functioning to which energy efficiency regulations and incentives can be applied. The research argues that the scope for energy savings has been exaggerated and the factors which drive pursuit of energy efficiency within firms of different sizes poorly understood and articulated. The Voluntary Agreement form of environmental regulation is assessed for its applicability to regulating for energy efficiency in the context of these characteristics of energy efficiency in industrial settings. An in-depth interview approach with core participants in an example of a Voluntary Agreement for energy efficiency in South Africa, the Energy Efficiency Accord (Accord), reveals the difficulties of regulating for specific technologies, the generally targeted nature of energy efficiency incentive schemes which provide household and commercial-type programmes to heavy industry, and the fact that environmental objectives and capacities are highly developed within firms interviewed and in most cases precede participation in Accord activities. The inference is that participation at this stage of the Accord's existence is driven by the need to develop and maintain relations between key stakeholders, and to exploit opportunities to influence the form of energy efficiency regulation enacted as opposed to the need to obtain forms of technical guidance. The particular pattern of participation in the Accord is argued to result in part from the historical dominance of large, energy-intensive firms in South Africa, and to be consistent with the theory that the more energy-intensive firms in a society will be motivated to participate in voluntary initiatives such as the Accord.