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Tax incentives for reducing energy consumption: An empirical evaluation of tax reforms in Swiss cantons

Applicant Lüchinger Simon
Number 153672
Funding scheme NRP 71 Managing Energy Consumption
Research institution Ökonomisches Seminar Universität Luzern
Institution of higher education University of Lucerne - LU
Main discipline Economics
Start/End 01.02.2015 - 30.04.2018
Approved amount 177'218.00
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Keywords (4)

tax incentives; electricity levy; rebound effect; vehicle choice

Lay Summary (German)

Ziel des Forschungsprojektes ist es, Lehren aus energiepolitischen Massnahmen in Schweizer Kantonen zu ziehen. Im vorliegenden Projekt sollen beabsichtigte und unbeabsichtigte Auswirkungen zweier spezifischer Massnahmen untersucht werden. Bei den Massnahmen handelt es sich einerseits um die ökologische Ausgestaltung der Motorfahrzeugsteuer in einigen Schweizer Kantonen und anderseits um die Elektrizitätsabgabe im Kanton Basel-Stadt. Kenntnisse der Wirkungen dieser Massnahmen sollen helfen, politische Entscheide im Rahmen der Energiestrategie 2050 auf nationaler Ebene besser wissenschaftlich abzustützen.
Lay summary

Ökologisch ausgestaltete Motorfahrzeugsteuern setzen Anreize für den Erwerb von verbrauchsarmen und umweltfreundlichen Fahrzeugen. Im vorliegenden Projekt planen wir deshalb zu untersuchen, wie solche Steueranreize die Fahrzeugwahl beeinflussen. Dabei soll die grosse kantonale und zeitliche Variation in den Steueranreizen genutzt werden. Positive Auswirkungen auf die Energieeinsparungen durch die Wahl verbrauchsarmer Fahrzeuge könnten aber durch eine vermehrte Nutzung solcher Fahrzeuge konterkariert werden. Deshalb sollen auch die Auswirkungen auf das Fahrverhalten analysiert werden.

Die Elektrizitätsabgabe im Kanton Basel-Stadt ist in verschiedener Hinsicht vergleichbar mit Lenkungssteuern, wie sie im Rahmen der zweiten Phase der Energiestrategie 2050 auf nationaler Ebene eingeführt werden könnten. Im vorliegenden Projekt soll deshalb untersucht werden, welche Auswirkungen die Basler Elektrizitätsabgabe auf den Stromverbrauch hatte. Um eine umfassende Bewertung solcher Abgaben zu ermöglichen, sollen darüber hinaus auch Verteilungswirkungen untersucht werden.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.10.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Lucerne Research Seminar in Economics and Management, University of Lucerne Individual talk Tax incentives for reducing energy consumption: An empirical evaluation of Basel’s electricity levy 30.11.2017 Lucerne, Switzerland Krebs Benjamin;
Human Dimensions of Environmental Risks. Behavioural Experiments, Field Experiments, Survey Research Talk given at a conference Tax incentives for reducing energy consumption: An empirical evaluation of Basel's electricity levy 21.05.2017 Ascona, Switzerland Krebs Benjamin;
Research seminar Institut de recherches Économiques, University of Neuchâtel Individual talk Tax incentives for reducing energy consumption: An empirical evaluation of Basel's electricity levy 19.05.2017 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Lüchinger Simon;
6th Law and Economics Conference in Lucerne: Energy Law and Economics Talk given at a conference Tax incentives for reducing energy consumption: An empirical evaluation of Basel's electricity levy 07.04.2017 Lucerne, Switzerland Krebs Benjamin; Lüchinger Simon;
Kick-off Meeting of NRP 70 and NRP 71: „Research for the Energy Turnaround” Poster Tax Incentives for Reducing Energy Consumption: An Empirical Evaluation of Tax Reforms in Swiss Cantons 24.04.2015 Luzern, Switzerland Krebs Benjamin; Lüchinger Simon;

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Tagung Sozialwissenschaften und Praxis im Dialog: Energieeffiziente Haushalte Talk 02.09.2016 Winterthur, Switzerland Lüchinger Simon;


In this project, we plan to exploit the experience of Swiss cantons with tax incentives and electricity levies in the empirical research on the behavior of households and firms to estimate the effectiveness of such steering measures in the Swiss context. The results will allow decision-makers to assess the potential contributions of these measures in meeting the goals of the “Energy Strategy 2050”, adapt planned measures and design powerful incentive schemes.In a first subproject, we will estimate the effects of tax incentives in several Swiss cantons for fuel efficient and clean cars on vehicle choice and driving behavior. We will first look at whether these incentives influence vehicle choice in the intended direction. Since positive effects on the fuel economy of vehicles may be counteracted by increased driving due to reduced driving costs (“rebound effect”), we will also explore how these tax-induced changes in fuel economy affect driving behavior. We will use the rich geographical and temporal variation in tax incentives and data on vehicle registrations and characteristics since 1970 to identify the effects on vehicle choice in a structural model. This will allow us to account for unobserved factors across cantons and over time and to recover key behavioral parameters, which can be used to retrospectively evaluate the cantonal policies and to design new incentive schemes in the area of individual mobility. Further, we will use the variation in tax incentives to assess the importance of unintended effects on driving behavior with data from the micro census on mobility and traffic.In a second subproject, we will evaluate the consequences of the electricity levy introduced in Basel in 1999 on electricity consumption and on the incidence of the levy across socio-economic strata. We will use the synthetic control method together with data on electricity consumption in other cantons to construct the counterfactual evolution of electricity consumption Basel would have experienced without the levy. The results allow us to anticipate the consequences of the planned replacement at the federal level of renewable energy subsidies by an energy levy. Drawing on official household expenditure surveys, we will also investigate distributional consequences of the levy.The subprojects are unified in their aims to shed light on how sensitive actors react to incentives for reducing energy consumption and to assess both intended and unintended effects of incentive-based approaches. Therefore, the findings promise to be particularly relevant for the second phase of the “Energy Strategy 2050”, in which incentive based approaches are expected to replace subsidies and promotion programs. The findings on the effects of vehicle tax incentives will allow cantonal governments and administrations to assess and optimize their incentive schemes and put corresponding political debates on firmer scientific grounds. Incentive-based approaches may also usefully complement or replace existing and planned prescriptive measures in the transport sector at the federal level. The findings from the first subproject can inform such considerations and can be used to simulate the effects of planned policies in this area. The findings on Basel’s electricity levy will allow decision-makers to anticipate the consequences of the planned energy levy at the federal level. The results will be informative for the planned federal energy levy because Basel’s levy is of similar magnitude and design and because of broadly similar context factors. More generally, by looking at the cantonal experience, we can evaluate the effectiveness of incentive-based policies that have proven to be politically acceptable and feasible in the Swiss context.