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Is there sufficient data to measure the energy spent managing regulation on both sides (energy spent on compliance, enforcement, permit application processing, and the like)?

Are there tools available to help communities determine what the net impact of a regulatory change on energy consumption is likely to be? One example might be whether permitting for landlords requiring sufficient insulation would require more energy in compliance efforts, enforcement, and permit application processing that would be saved and under what circumstances that might be the case.

Additionally are there tools for lifecycle analysis which allow us to look at embodied energy as including regulatory compliance and governmental actions regarding enforcement and permitting?

I did a few quick looks around and I couldn't find much. Am I missing something or do we just consider this to be "dark energy?" I recognize that all models are simplifications but is there an accepted way to include government energy expenditures in pursuit of regulations in these equations?

(Here's my first guess: Figure average energy consumption, including indirect consumption via materials, per individual in a city, figure the ratio of permitting and inspecting employees, including supervisors, to annual permits, try to add miles driven, but at a bit of a loss, wondering if there are formulas for other admin costs.)

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The regulatory environmental impact itself is, in almost all cases, so vanishingly small that it's not worth itemising, whether you're counting greenhouse gas emissions (which are bad things) or energy consumed (which is neutral - it's neither good nor bad).

You can get a decent first-order estimate by looking at the total distance driven, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, aircon) requirements, of staff in implementing the regulation: those are likely to swamp out everything else.

For the actual physical costs of implementing the regulation, you'd want an Lifecycle assessment database, or similar; or for a specific measure (e.g. energy embodied in specific types of insulation), there are sources in the scientific literature, in manufacturers' datasheets, and some supervisory organisations: I'd imagine people like the UK's Energy Savings Trust, Ethical Consumer magazine, and maybe even the "Which" consumer group, might have such information.

NB that's not telling you how much the net energy is. You'd need to subtract out the alternative arrangements in the absence of the new regulation. So if there are already some regulations on the habitability of rented properties, then you're only interested in the additional cost of the additional regulation. That might be zero; it might even be net negative, if the new regulations are tighter, but more streamlined than their predecessors.

So although the regulatory costs do in some cases get considered in some policy impact appraisals, it's a very small value. In Britain, policy appraisals include a cost-of-carbon in valuing both costs and benefits; greenhouse-gas emissions from regulatory activities are monetised and included in the costs, along with the costs of implementation.

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    I am looking at trying to model questions like, "Under what circumstances does it save energy to require that landlords get permits verifying that they have sufficient installation in order to rent? In what cases does this cost more energy than it saves?" Obviously if the insulation present is good enough the compliance costs will outweigh savings. The question is at what point is there savings? This would have to include all energy spent by, in this example, both the landlord on compliance and the city on permitting and inspection as well as indirect costs like costs of living. – Chris Travers Mar 25 '13 at 11:05
  • I understand - it's just that the costs are small, whether in enforcement, or in the embodied energy of insulation materials. So there'd only be no not energy savings if there were no gross energy savings. – EnergyNumbers Mar 25 '13 at 13:08

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