A while ago I promised a blog on the recent release of the UK energy data. This blog covers some of it. The energy data I’ve obtained is really very comprehensive and goes back to 1970. It covers almost very aspect of domestic energy use and patterns in the UK. Whilst this data is UK centric the broad trends are probably the same in most Western countries.
Looking first at heat use from the UK energy data we can see from the left hand graph that decades of falling heat loss from UK houses has spectacularly reversed in the last three years of data. The right hand graph shows that the average temperature people heat their houses to has showed a consistent upward trend even as the average outside temperature has increased.
At first sight there is no obvious explanation for this recent pattern, although 2010 was on of the cold winters we have had, so was 2009. However, the overall data is broken down into individual components (walls. Windows, roof etc.) Only the heat loss through walls has shown a continuing fall. The heat loss though windows and by ventilation has increased dramatically with other areas such as roofs showing minor increases. It looks like the recent run of colder winters has had households opening their windows more frequently to combat mould and damp. This a live issue of debate in our household, is it better to air the house and let cold air in and hopefully damp along with heat out? Or does make the whole place colder and therefore damper? There is a solution to this that is a mechanical heat recovery system which removes stale air passes it through a heat exchanger and sends 90% of it back into the house. However these are disruptive and expensive to retro fit.
The second set of graphs show long term energy price trends. The left hand graph shows the actual price and the second right hand graph shows the prices relative to 2011 prices (2011=100).
Again this data shows some surprising trends. Whilst there has obviously been a very high upward trend in recent years the price some types of energy are not at all time highs. The data ends at 2011 and it should be noted that prices have gone up more since. Also gas and oil prices have been higher in the past. The gas price data is explained by the fact that it was higher when there was no north sea gas and we used town gas. This cheap north sea gas explains the gas and electricity price falls in the late nineties, not privatisation of the gas and electricity companies which piggy backed on the back of that cheap resource. But as the gas has started to run out and the oil price leapt, that trend has gone into reverse with a vengeance. Oil prices (used for heating) were also higher in the past. This is also surprising to me. Not even the record price of oil in 2008 could undo the 1979/80 price.
The effect of these recent price increases can be seen in the next set of graphs showing on the left the % of households in England in fuel poverty and on the right the % income spent by all UK households in different fuels.
What can we conclude from this UK energy data? Despite energy price increases we are still very wasteful with energy and for many of us its still too cheap. There are a large minority however, who are struggling since for them ironically energy prices are far too high.
All UK energy data sourced from DECC.