Researchers identify energy management needs of Australian households

Conceptual image of hands holding house with energy usage bars (climate council)
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Monash University researchers have identified opportunities for better energy management to address lifestyle changes in Australian households. 

Through the pandemic, living practices in Australian households have undergone significant change with more people working from home, more devices being used in houses for longer periods of time and a growing focus on ventilation and air purification. 

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Added to the constant need for lowering energy costs and increasing energy efficiencies, Australians are now looking at moving towards renewable energy sources, creating and storing energy through solar PV and home battery storage. The ways that households contribute to, and impact on, Australia’s energy system are diversifying.

Published by the Emerging Technologies Research Lab (ETLab) at Monash University, the new Demand Management Opportunities report identified 15 tailored approaches to better align energy use with change in Australian households across seven daily practices of healthy indoor air and thermal comfort, charging devices, food consumption, caring for the household’s occupants, working at home, and energy creation and storage. 

These approaches include:

  • Adapting summer peak demand advice to new ventilation practices and health needs
  • Managing the electricity impacts from additional space utilisation in homes
  • Offering advice on charging devices in homes and providing incentives and prompts to turn chargers on or off at particular times
  • Adopting tailored ‘at home’ approaches for weekday occupied households
  • Offering sustainability-centred participation opportunities
  • Recognising the impacts of digital exclusion and providing hands-on, face-to-face support for disadvantaged groups such as CALD households, the elderly, and renters
  • Supporting improved temperature control like better insulation and building materials
  • Educating the public on the energy expended for water heating and encouraging a switch to solar energy for hot water
  • Parenting-focused support and opportunities to participate
  • Educating communities on how cooking practices impact energy consumption
  • Providing opportunities to trade and share electricity, including as a gift to other households
  • Offering ‘free energy’ as incentives to engage households in conversations about energy efficiency.

Lead author Dr Larissa Nicholls from the Faculty of Information Technology said the report presents opportunities for the energy sector to better understand and respond to the changing dynamics of energy in households alongside the rapid increase of renewable energy production and battery storage in Australia. 

“Our recommendations include energy efficiencies for air purification, energy programs to suit people working and parenting from home, thermal efficiency in garages and sheds now being used as home offices, programs that encourage use of surplus solar and wind energy, and initiatives for digitally excluded households,” Dr Nicholls said. 

“The energy sector needs to engage with diverse household circumstances and interests to better utilise ever-increasing amounts of renewable electricity from wind and solar generation, and facilitate the path to net zero emissions.”

The Demand Management Opportunities report is part of a landmark Digital Energy Futures research project, which presented 45 trends and 10 principles to inform energy planning and forecasting. 

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Co-author of the report, Associate Professor Yolande Strengers, said that the end goal of the project was to envision future scenarios of energy demand and work with the energy industry to support the creation of optimised energy infrastructures. 

The Digital Energy Futures project was supported by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects Funding Scheme in partnership with Monash University, Ausgrid, AusNet Services and Energy Consumers Australia.

View the full report here.

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