Unique research project investigates electricity use in poorly insulated homes

energy efficiency, electricity

A unique research project at The Australian National University to explore home insulation and electricity use has been named the 2020 winner of the Icon Water and ActewAGL Perpetual Endowment Fund.

Dr Lee White, a Research Fellow with the ANU Energy Change Institute based at the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), will spend 12 months collaborating with ActewAGL to determine the impact of housing energy efficiency on bill changes, driven by time-of-use rates.

The project aims to support the development of modernised electricity billing systems in a way that improves, rather than exacerbates existing inequities.

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“This project would test the hypothesis that households in well-insulated homes will see greater bill savings when changing to time-of-use compared to households in poorly-insulated homes,” Dr White said.

Dr Lee White and Lahiru Hapuarachchi, ActewAGL lead product and innovation engineer

“If the hypothesis is supported, then there’s a clear case to focus on insulation improvements for older homes. Vulnerable groups are more likely to live in these less insulated homes, and it’s important to ensure these groups have at least an equal ability to lower bills on time-of-use rates compared to better off households.”

The ActewAGL study will build on Dr White’s earlier published research about demand-side electricity use and time-of-use rates by households in the United States. Dr Emma Aisbett will assist Dr White in an economic advisory role, while Christa Shen will help with various research tasks.

“Prior research suggests that housing efficiency will limit ability to cut back on heating or cooling costs, but this question has not yet been addressed with rigorous empirical analyses,” Dr White said.

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“It’s a great opportunity for an early career researcher like me to be able to work so closely with industry, this will allow us to make a really unique contribution to analysis in this area.

“I’m glad to have the support at ANU to pursue these kinds of opportunities.”

ANU Energy Change Institute Director, Professor Ken Baldwin, said it was a tough decision for the Endowment Committee to select the winner, but ultimately the committee was impressed by Dr White’s research proposal and the potential that her study holds.

“We’re excited by the project and look forward to communicating its findings, because they may be able to benefit residents in many poorly-insulated dwellings not just across the ACT but globally,” Professor Baldwin said.