Temperature control is a key electricity demand driver
(Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay)

Temperature control is a key electricity demand driver

In Hannah Ritchie's recent Sustainability by numbers blog, she asks the question "what do American households use electricity for?" As many of you will know, Hannah is a data scientist and deputy editor and lead researcher at Our World in Data.

She dives into data from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) conducted by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2020 and finds that the majority of electricity usage is about either heating or cooling: space heating, air conditioning, water heating, (de)humidifiers and refrigeration.

This chart below hints at an important future dynamic. Whilst EV charging, pool pumps and hot tub heating have high individual consumption, it is only EV charging that is likely to move to the top right hand segment of the chart - as Hannah puts it, she doesn't expect "a major ‘hot tub’ boom over the next decade!"

The bottom line is that future energy demand for both residential households and industry is going to be about temperature control.

That is not without challenges. With growing deployment of heat pumps, whilst requiring lower primary energy to control household temperature in the same way that fossil fuel heating systems do, there will be a strain on the current national grids.

Micro grids, comprising local renewables plus storage will help, as will district heating and cooling systems but there are other ways in which the temperature control challenge can be met.

The Institute of Mechanical Engineers published an 'Energy hierarchy' in 2009 to act as a framework to guide sustainable energy policy and decision-making. We have represented it graphically below.

The cheapest and greenest energy is the one we don't use. Efficiency through design, particularly with passive temperature measures will play their part globally - in fact they already are. In this blog from September 2024, we discussed Passive House design, an innovative proposal for using a building as a thermal battery and two examples in India and in Spain where innovative design has provided low cost cooling for a school and a public park.

Link to blog 👉🏾

This article featured in What Caught Our Eye, a weekly email featuring stories we found particularly interesting during the week and why. We also give our lateral thought on each one. What Caught our Eye is available to read in full by members.

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