Modelling household energy use: a new approach
Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIEMAP) researcher Anne Owen talks about her new EPSRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship looking at household energy.
The Energy Demand Model
It is important for the Government to be able to predict the future energy needs of UK industries, homes and transport to ensure sufficient supply. At the same time, the UK needs to plan to reduce energy use in order to meet climate change reduction targets. At the moment the UK Government uses an Energy Demand Model which makes future energy predictions based on estimates of economic growth, the price of fuel and the number of households there will be in the future. This technique for predicting future energy needs is deficient, because it fails to take account of the fact that household demand for goods and services is the major driver of the economic performance of industry, and that the way households spend today is likely to be very different in the future.
This fellowship takes a ‘whole systems’ approach to understanding the UK’s demand for energy. The link between household spends and industrial energy use can be determined by quantifying the total energy required in the supply chain of producing a product. It is also possible to capture the energy that is embedded in goods exported abroad and goods imported to the UK from other countries with very different energy efficiency standards in their factories. A new indicator of energy demand: ‘the UK’s Energy Footprint’ which shows the full amount of energy associated with products bought by UK consumers between 2005 and 2015 will be developed. Meetings have been held with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to ensure that this new indicator will be reported alongside the Carbon Footprint.
Instead of simply looking at the changing goods and services bought by an average household, this fellowship will consider the differing expenditure profile of up to 60 different household types between 2005 and 2015. For this, geodemographic expenditure profiles developed by CallCredit, a credit reference company will be used. The main user of geodemographic data is the business sector understanding their consumers, so it is important that the data is current and constantly kept up-to-date. Producers of this type of data do not keep previous years’ profiles as a readily available product. This means that their household energy data has never been used to understand the changing geodemographic profile in the UK or elsewhere. An agreement has been made with CallCredit to exclusively acquire a decade’s worth of expenditure data from their archive. This means that it will be possible for the first time to determine whether the energy needs of the UK have altered due to households buying different types of products or whether the change is due to the mix of households in the UK changing.
Future household energy scenarios
Mathematical analyses will be used to calculate the drivers of the change in UK energy demand. The research will be able to determine what effect the recession had on the energy demand of different households. The focus will be on using predictions of the changing household types and predictions on how lifestyles may change in the future to estimate what the UK’s demand for energy will be in 2030. There is uncertainty as to how the UK’s infrastructure might have to change in order to cope with an aging population or the trend for homeworking. This fellowship will address this by determining the energy requirements of these futures by forming scenarios which calculate the UK’s energy needs when there are greater proportions of these types of household present in the UK’s demography. Outputs from this research will also be used to verify the BEIS’s future energy demand scenarios and provide new inputs to their Energy Demand Model. This work therefore has great importance in ensuring the UK can meet the energy needs of its businesses and people, and become more sustainable, now and in the future.
Dr Anne Owen is a Research Associate at the Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds.
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