This is a significant one. It’s true: we do like to big up our research and results trials here on this blog, but today’s Powering the Nation report is very, very big.
No study of this scale looking at actual electricity consumption in real homes has ever been completed in the UK before. There are several good reasons for this: cost, the quality and availability of monitoring equipment, the challenge of recruiting a socially-representative sample of homes to study.
But recent studies in France and Sweden have acted as both a test-bed and inspiration, and now, two years in the making, the study of 251 representative homes in England, jointly commissioned by ourselves, DECC and DEFRA, is here. It’s a real window into the average home and a bit of a revelation really. So what’s been found out?
Well, we obviously didn’t set out to manoeuvre the work towards painting a rosy picture – but even so, a couple of the key findings came as something of a sharp shock.
Firstly, our sample homes’ electricity consumption was on average 10 per cent higher than the previously-assumed national average.
Then, standby power consumption is significantly up on expectations. We’ve always advocated turning appliances and gadgets off at the plug where possible, not charging phones overnight etc. but the scale of importance of these actions hasn’t been fully appreciated until now.
Previous assumptions of standby usage have been in the 5-10 per cent region. In the study, £50-86 of electricity was spent on appliances in ‘non-active’ states – put another way, standby accounted for 9-16 per cent of total domestic power demand.
The second finding that comes with flashing lights is that single-person households, in key areas of the home such as cooking and laundry, are consuming as much, and in some cases more than typical families. With 29 per cent of homes single person dwellings in 2010, and patterns shifting ever more towards more single-occupancy, this exposes a key demographic to target with an urgent energy efficiency message.
There’s no doubt that this report has definitively answered many of the frequently asked questions domestic energy professionals and researchers have been pondering for decades. The massive amount of new information collected means better data, better assumptions and models, better policies – just better energy-saving.
There’s room for further investigation, too, as well as improvement all round, especially considering these new findings in the light of our previous Elephant in the living room report on the rise of electronic gadgetry in the home.
We’ll be blogging about this some more tomorrow, but if you can’t wait for that, check out the full report and press release.