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The electromechanical energy stored in a dielectric subjected to the field of a trapped charge is calculated by a self‐consistent method, using a point‐dipole model for the polarization. The magnitude of this energy is 5–10 eV per trapped charge, depending on the structure (fcc or bcc) and the location of the charge (atomic site or intersite). It is proposed to attribute the degradation of dielectric materials to the release of this energy after the detrapping of initially trapped charges. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.