energy efficiency

Domestic energy consumption linked to affluence

A few weeks ago The Guardian published some great new maps of domestic energy consumption from figures published by DECC at the ‘neighbourhood scale’.

These figures have been mapped for Britain at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2012/apr/02/energy-use-map-electricity-gas

DECC Guidance Notes here.

For anyone that hasn’t had a play with map yet, we’d recommend exploring areas you know.  If you find some interesting trends leave us a message below.

The two key datasets are average gas consumption per gas meter and average electricity consumption per meter.  Just to help you get your head round this data, we believe that OfGem has been able to take consumption data for every 'domestic scale' meter in Britain and produce an average (per meter) figure for each zone.  There will be situations where average household sizes in some areas are larger and you would therefore expect consumption to be higher – if you factored in the average household size per zone then you could normalise the figures to take this into account.

The zones being used (Medium Super Output Areas in England and Wales, Intermediate Zones in Scotland) are roughly similar in terms of population size (approx. 5,000 population per zone).  The effect of housing density is indicated by the size of the zones.  Small zones indicate high densities and a higher percentage of flatted dwellings. Large zones in urban areas often indicate lower density detached or semi-detached suburbia. Flats are known to have lower heating energy requirements per square-metre than terraced houses; hence most of the smallest zones have low total consumption (green colour). Terraced houses, in turn, need less heat than detached houses; hence larger zones containing suburban semi-detached or detached housing, or large city centre town-houses, tend to have the highest gas consumption (coloured red or purple).

Here are a few of our observations:

  • Analysing on-gas-grid areas and off-gas-grid areas on the same electricity map can be highly misleading. It would be better to extract off-gas-grid rural areas and view these on a separate map. It is also not clear exactly which areas are (wholly or partially) off-gas-grid, as some parts of Scotland appear to be ‘on-grid’ even though gas is known not to extend to all parts of particular zones.
  • Like many of those who added comments on the Guardian’s page, there are clear associations (both with per meter data and gross totals) between areas with large, detatched properties (generally more affluent) and higher consumption of both gas and electricity per meter.  To heat these larger properties (which may be historic and ‘hard to heat’) will require more energy.  The classic geographic juxtaposition in Glasgow illustrates this with Drumchapel (high levels of poverty, relatively low levels of consumption – and much higher density housing) and Bearsden (highly affluent, relatively high levels of consumption – and mainly large houses).

 Glasgow neighbourhoods and energy consumption

  • Manchester average domestic gas consumptionIn general rural areas appear to have higher electricity consumption (per meter) than urban areas.  Some of this pattern will be explained by rural properties being off-gas-grid and using electric heating instead.  However a significant proportion of rural housing will be using oil for heating.
  • Gas consumption data will be heavily influenced by access to mains gas.  Where areas do have access to mains gas, then it appears affluent, low-density suburban and rural areas consume more ‘per meter’ than less affluent areas – and also less than highly urbanised areas.  Note the obvious suburban red ring around both Manchester and London for gas consumption ‘per meter’ (see right)
  • Most flatted properties are small and therefore will contain less people ‘per meter’ than large suburban houses. This will reduce energy consumption compared to 4 – 5 person houses. It might therefore be useful to correlate energy use ‘per meter per occupant’.
  • There are large areas in Scotland, in particular without access to mains gas.  They have higher electricity ‘per meter’ consumption as a result of their reliance on electricity for heating, either wholly or to supplement poor-quality oil or solid-fuel heating.
  • This data appears not to highlight a significant north-south difference.  However, checking through some of the DECC information, it would appear that the data has been normalised against climate data, and therefore any north-south divide would not appear.
  • One comment noted in the DECC associated report is that there isLondon average gas consumption a “lack of a reliable domestic industrial/commercial sector split for consumers with low gas consumption. This is because the gas industry uses a crude 73,200 kWh level as the cut off point for defining customers as domestic or commercial/industrial. The implication of this is that only around half a million businesses are allocated to the industrial/commercial sector, with around 2 million small and medium businesses allocated incorrectly to the domestic sector. DECC is currently looking at improving the allocation of businesses to the industrial/commercial sector by using information from the Inter Departmental Business Register (IDBR).”  This means that, where you might have a lot of small-to-medium businesses (e.g. shops and offices below flats) their gas consumption data will also be incorporated into the domestic data.

Some conclusions:

  • It is perhaps no surprise that areas with higher energy consumption are likely to have a high proportion of large, detatched (and possibly historic) houses.  However it is useful to validate this.  We suspect that even if you were to add a 'per head' factor to this data you would still find the same pattern - indeed this could well exacerbate it!
  • There should be considerable potential for cutting energy consumption in affluent on-gas-grid areas through energy efficiency measures, although challenges to this might include the fact that the financial incentives are weaker, they are potentially harder to heat (historic) properties, and there is likely to be a reluctance to invest public money in reaching this audience. 
  • A significant shift towards greater energy efficiency measures and the installation of heat pumps and biomass heating in off-gas-grid rural areas could reduce ‘per meter’ electricity consumption. But, until the data for oil consumption and other fuel sources is available, we will be unable to compare on-gas-grid properties with off-gas-grid properties comparatively.
  • Overall, the source data offers a great deal of value if handled with care.  With further analysis, areas of similar housing type could be compared with each other to highlight those with high and low consumption levels and, more importantly, what is happening in these areas that could explain the variation.  The data should allow local authorities and others to target areas with high consumption.  Campaigns could be developed for these areas to encourage them to take action to reduce their consumption levels.  However public spending on pro-active social marketing to affluent residents may not be considered high priority by many local authorities!
  • The implications of this in terms of policy are far-reaching.  You might be feeling aggrieved that major programmes like the Green Deal appear to be aimed more at cutting consumption for those households that already have lower energy bills!  [Maybe there's more of them and they are considered to be easier to improve?]  But the policy people also need to find ways to persuade affluent households to make significant cuts to their consumption.  How about "you jump to the next council tax band if you score D or below for your EPC"?  This would be neat and relatively easy to implement - except that local authorities would then get the additional revenue and they are not renown for rolling out energy efficiency programmes to the masses.

If you have your own observations and conclusions, perhaps for an area you know, tell us more below. If you have suggestions for policies to persuade those living in larger properties to cut their consumption do post them!

New funds available for communities and public sector

Thanks to our Sponsors MacRoberts for this guest post.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has announced £30 million of funding for carbon reduction projects. The funding comprises a £10 million Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) and a further £20 million for the DECC's existing public sector energy efficiency loan scheme.

LEAF has been set up to provide funding for community energy projects in England and Wales. It is designed to fund work by community groups to understand the potential of community projects for improvements in energy efficiency, and opportunities for local renewable energy generation. Grants from the fund can be used to help finance energy efficiency projects, such as demonstrating energy saving technologies (e.g. solid wall insulation), and educating communities about energy saving measures.  They can also be used for renewable energy projects such as area-wide studies to highlight which renewable energy technologies would be most appropriate for an area.  It is hoped that the fund will help communities prepare for opportunities arising from the Green Deal, the Renewable Heat Incentive and Feed-in Tariffs,

Around 200 community groups will benefit under the LEAF scheme, with average awards of £50,000. Eligible applicants include parish councils, voluntary associations, development trusts and faith groups. LEAF is designed to be a short-term scheme and work on grant-funded projects must be completed by the end of March 2012. The deadline for applications is 22 December 2011 for the first wave of funding, and 20 January 2012 for the second wave.  Applications can be submitted electronically at Energy Saving Trust's website from today.

The DECC's public sector energy efficiency loan scheme provides interest-free loans for public sector energy efficiency projects. To be eligible, projects must be able to pay for themselves within five years* through lower energy bills, with savings being used to make repayments on the loan. Once the loan has been repaid the funded organisation will receive direct benefit from the savings. This scheme has so far funded more than 7000 projects in the UK, and it is estimated that the additional funding will enable savings of £46 million and 210,000 tonnes of carbon.  Interested public sector organisations can apply via the website of Salix Finance Ltd.

Is the Green Deal likely to deliver?

Can the Government's flagship energy efficiency initiative, the Green Deal, deliver?  As a follow-up to our article describing the Green Deal we look at some of our concerns around the documents that have so far been released. Read More...

Can the Government's flagship energy efficiency initiative, the Green Deal, deliver?  As a follow-up to our article describing the Green Deal we look at some of our concerns around the documents that have so far been released.

New energy efficiency loan scheme for businesses

Thanks to Nick Jones and Andrew Orr, our guest bloggers at MacRoberts (www.macroberts.com) for this post.

A new green finance initiative, backed by the Carbon Trust in partnership with Siemens Financial Services, offers a fund worth £550 million to UK based businesses for the installation of low carbon and energy efficient technologies.  It opened for applications on 26 April 2011.

The scheme is the first dedicated low carbon private finance initiative in the UK and aims to provide finance for energy efficient 'green equipment' to businesses over the next 3 years. Financing of £1000 upwards will be provided from Siemens Financial Services to eligible businesses to spend on any equipment or measures meeting the scheme's energy-saving criteria based on a cost, energy and carbon saving assessment carried out by the Carbon Trust. Repayments will be calculated so as to be offset by the resulting anticipated energy savings; the financing option is designed to pay for itself. Read More...

Thanks to Nick Jones and Andrew Orr, our guest bloggers at MacRoberts (www.macroberts.com) for this post.

A new green finance initiative, backed by the Carbon Trust in partnership with Siemens Financial Services, offers a fund worth £550 million to UK based businesses for the installation of low carbon and energy efficient technologies.  It opened for applications on 26 April 2011.

The scheme is the first dedicated low carbon private finance initiative in the UK and aims to provide finance for energy efficient 'green equipment' to businesses over the next 3 years. Financing of £1000 upwards will be provided from Siemens Financial Services to eligible businesses to spend on any equipment or measures meeting the scheme's energy-saving criteria based on a cost, energy and carbon saving assessment carried out by the Carbon Trust. Repayments will be calculated so as to be offset by the resulting anticipated energy savings; the financing option is designed to pay for itself.