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Energy

Shifting lifestyle trends boost Victorians’ demand for energy

Monash University 6 mins read
51 emerging trends were found across 9 areas of everyday life.

Melbourne, 12 October 2023 – Monash University’s Emerging Technologies Research Lab unveils massive shifts in future household energy demands in a new report published today. The pivotal study offers energy distribution networks an invaluable glimpse into the future – empowering them to sharpen their forecasts, develop future business plans, and ensure the lights stay on.

The increase in home-based care, a rise in the energy needs to support study and work from home and the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) are among the 51 specific trends found by the research to be affecting Victorians’ future energy needs.

“These trends represent both challenges and opportunities for the electricity network,” says Dr Kari Dahlgren, lead author of the study and researcher with the Monash Energy Institute.

“Consumers value energy for what it enables them to achieve in their everyday lives. Predictions of energy demand will be most accurate if they recognise these values, and this report helps outline what those motivations are.”

The research was commissioned by energy networks CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy as part of their consultation program informing regulatory reset proposals for the 2026-2031 period. 

“This research is an evolutionary jump in how we model future electricity use,” says Ms Renate Vogt, General Manager, Regulation at CitiPower and Powercor.

“It has given us actionable insights that will benefit our customers across metropolitan, suburban and rural and regional locations.

“As the electrification of homes continues to grow, the trends point to a greater role for our networks and a greater dependence on their reliability.”

Researchers worked in-depth with 36 households and analysed 1,325 customer survey responses to develop the Future Home Demand Report, published today. 

“The 51 emerging digital energy trends are found by looking at nine areas of domestic life, from how people prefer to charge their EVs, to how we prepare and store food, manage new digital and smart technologies in our homes, keep our devices charged, and cope with changed routines while working from home,” says Dr Dahlgren.

One insight from the research is that more families are likely to care for loved ones – both family members and pets – at home in the future. This aligns with ‘Comfort, health and safety’ being the highest ranked household value, with three quarters (75.4%) of survey respondents ranking it among their top two values.

“Households are increasingly installing caring devices such as life support machines that depend on reliable energy supplies. In response, we’re reviewing our approach to demand management and looking to partner with health authorities, community groups and councils on initiatives which focus on promoting low energy or lower demand approaches to providing care,” says Ms Vogt.

“The energy needs of pets is one of the most surprising findings of this research. Power needed for feeding and entertaining a growing number of pets during the day is not something we would have normally considered in our forecasts.”

Increased adoption of EVs is another trend that presents opportunities as well as challenges for the electricity grid. The survey found 77% of respondents who have an EV, or are intending to purchase one in the next five years, are planning to charge it at home.

“Despite being open to technologies such as smart chargers which would charge EVs when electricity is cheap or coming from renewable sources, many people want to manage this themselves, or at least they want to be able to override automation in case of events such as extreme weather,” says Dr Dahlgren.

“With manual control, people could decide to charge their EVs just before a large storm is predicted to hit a region, creating localised pressures on the grid that need to be managed.”

This increased demand will require preparation and interventions to better manage charging habits ahead of forecasted extreme weather events.

And with more of us working from home, peak demand trends are changing. Just under half of respondents (49.5%) do paid work from home at least one day a week, and nearly one in five are working from home all week.

Other trends identified in the report include the increased electrification of cooking, which will continue to accelerate in line with the mandatory electrification of new Victorian residential developments from 2024. Climate change will also impact future energy demands, as increasing temperatures and more frequent and more extreme weather events affecting household routines in the future. 

“Traditional forecasting of customer behaviour has relied exclusively on historical trends. But customer behaviour is changing rapidly, and this report will greatly aid our forecasting to ensure we can adapt and respond to future customers’ needs,” says Ms Vogt.

“The energy sector is changing both in how we produce power and how we consume it.  Traditionally most of the focus has been on the generation side, but only by understanding the trends in how energy is utilised at the consumer level can we successful transition to a low carbon economy,” says Associate Professor Roger Dargaville, Deputy Director of the Monash Energy Institute.

The Future Home Demand research was built on the methodology and process developed through the Digital Energy Futures Project (DEF), a partnership between Monash University, The Australian Research Council, Energy Consumers Australia, Ausgrid and AusNet Services.

CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy’s regulatory proposal for the 2026-2031 period are being developed through extensive engagement with the networks’ customers and communities. They will be submitted to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for approval in January 2025.

--ENDS--


About us:

Additional quotes attributed to Dr Kari Dahlgren

On the collaboration: “It’s been great to see how this research is going to have a direct impact in improving the electricity system for Victorians. Working with industry partners on this report has meant the research is about to have a direct impact. We also wouldn’t have been able to do it without their help in recruiting research participants through their customer networks. This project has shown just how much is possible when university researchers and industry work collaboratively together.”

On the model used for the research: “This research draws on a larger research agenda around energy futures that we work on in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University. Our research is informed by recognising that futures are always emerging and being made by everyday people, not just technology or experts. People creatively adapt, alter and innovate with technology to suit their everyday priorities and values, and not always in the way that technologies are designed to be used. Understanding people’s enduring values and priorities in relation to emerging trends is therefore at the forefront of how we generate plausible speculations about how people will live in the future.”

Additional quotes attributed to Ms Renate Vogt

On the energy transition: “As the energy transition gathers pace, we need to make electricity available when and where it’s needed. This requires an understanding of how our customers are consuming and exporting power today and into the future, so we can plan our network strategies and investments to meet those needs.”

On supporting customers: “The energy transition, rising cost of living, more people working from home and climate change are all impacting and changing what our customers want and need from their electricity network.”

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About the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University

The Emerging Technologies Research Lab is an interdisciplinary and internationally embedded research and knowledge community, which conducts research into the social, cultural and experiential dimensions of the design, use and futures of new and emerging technologies. The ET Lab is a cross-faculty initiative that conducts research through the Faculties of Art, Design & Architecture (MADA) and Information Technology (FIT) at Monash University.

The Future Home Demand Research Team includes Dr Kari Dahlgren, Professor Yolande Strengers, Professor Sarah Pink, Dr Fareed Kaviani, Dr Hannah Korsmeyer, and Dr Rex Martin. Dr Dahlgren and Prof. Strengers are members of the Monash Energy Institute.

About CitiPower and Powercor 

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CitiPower and Powercor move electricity to and from more than 1.2 million homes and businesses across Melbourne’s CBD, inner and western suburbs of Melbourne and through central and western Victoria to the South Australian and New South Wales borders. Powercor has almost 30% solar penetration, also now supporting more than 1 GW of large-scale renewables.

Combined, the networks are made up more than 81,000 kilometres of wires, and more than 654,500 poles and associated infrastructure. 

 

About United Energy 

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United Energy moves electricity to and from more than 710,000 customers in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs, including 11,200 commercial and industrial businesses, 53,400 small businesses and Mornington Peninsula tourism region.


Contact details:

Tom Carruthers, +61 404 404 026, tom@scienceinpublic.com.au
Media interviews are available with Dr Kari Dahlgren and Ms Renate Vogt. 

The full report can be accessed at:
https://www.monash.edu/emerging-tech-research-lab/research/projects/future-home-demand-anticipating-energy-and-everyday-life-trends-across-three-victorian-networks

 

Two user case studies are available on request.

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