BEHAVE conference 2023

BEHAVE conference 2023

Maastricht, Netherlands

28–29 November 2023

Conference website

Settling for colder homes as energy prices rise: evidence from 4200 households in Great Britain

Clare Hanmer and Ellen Zapata-Webborn

2022 saw steep rises in energy prices in Great Britain. With gas space heating responsible for around half of domestic energy consumption, reducing home thermostat setpoints has the potential to significantly reduce demand and household energy bills.

The Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) has been collecting smart meter and contextual data from around 13,000 GB households since 2018. In early 2023 SERL sent a survey to participants about their recent energy-saving behaviours along with dwelling and household information (including income and usual heating thermostat setpoint), receiving over 5,000 responses.

This paper presents a statistical analysis of how self-reported SERL participant temperature setpoints changed in winter 2022/23 compared with those they had reported previously. We analyse the variation in temperature settings with household (e.g. size, ages, income) and building (e.g. floor area, EPC rating) characteristics. We combine smart meter and financial circumstance data to identify those likely to be in fuel poverty and compare the thermostat setpoints of this group with the wider sample. We also investigate the characteristics of the households most likely to have reduced their setpoint.

The results show a significant reduction in reported thermostat setpoints in winter 2022/23 compared to winter 2020/21. The proportion of households reporting a setpoint lower than 18°C increased from 6.7% to 15.2%. While there are obvious energy efficiency benefits from thermostat reduction, the large share of households with temperatures lower than the recommended minimum highlights a concern for policy makers.

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Peak demand reduction – who is flexibility, when and how?

Phil Grunewald

The energy crisis experienced in the UK during the winter 2022/23 forced the network operator to offer rewards as part of their Demand Flexibility Service (DFS). For the first time in the history of the national grid, private customers could be paid for using less during peak demand events. The scheme was delivered via energy suppliers and was considered successful enough to be repeated in winter 2023/24. For reasons of commercial sensitivity little data has been made available about the distribution of responses within the population. We share detailed responses from a sample of 200 UK households, who attempted to avoid peak demand across four seasons. Alongside high- resolution electricity use data, we present results from socio-demographics and detailed activity diaries collected during response events and during ‘normal’ control days. They show the impact of load shifting on everyday practices and gives insights into conditions that might inhibit greater flexibility.Our results show that it is not the extent of the financial reward that determines the load responsiveness. Some activity patterns are unexpectedly flexible, including meal preparation. Despite the perceived technical potential to shift heating appliances, gas heated homes only showed modest shifts in gas demand during flexibility events.We present detailed findings and an outlook for the continuation of this research as part of the newly established UK Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory (EDOL), an £8m national and longitudinal data resource for the zero-carbon demand transition.

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