The topology of the energy crisis will likely evolve over the next 3 months from a full ‘fossil fuel’ crisis to a more specific Electricity and Gas heating crisis. Global oil markets are gradually rebalancing leading to a softening in petrol and diesel prices, although high refinery margins and low global diesel inventories will see petrol prices reduce quicker than diesel.
While prices for liquid fuels, including kerosene for home heating will remain near record highs they will not be subject to the same surges in price that is expected in electricity and gas over the next 6 months.
A typical home has annual needs for 3 modes of energy namely, Transport (15,000 units or kWhs) Heating (12,000 units), and Electricity (4000 units).
While Transport and Heating requirements dominate in terms of energy, electricity will dominate in terms of cost this year, reflecting the remarkable price increases we are all seeing.
Reductions in general household electricity use are harder to achieve than in transport (where recreational trips can be avoided) or in heating (where individual rooms can be heated or thermostats lowered).
Irish homes have seen a gradual but steady reduction in electricity use over the past 10 years despite having more devices and appliances because EU Energy Efficiency regulations mean these devices need less electricity. For example, a modern smart TV will use approx. €65 of electricity a year and just €5 a year when on standby
From a public policy perspective, it is important to focus information campaigns on impactful daily practices that use the most electricity such as electric showers, clothes washing, water heating etc rather than targeting habit-forming practices such as turning off lights and unplugging appliances that have a lower impact and are less likely to endure.
It is also important to distinguish between discretionary uses of electricity (for example shorter showers, lower temperature clothes washing) rather than essential uses (cooking, lighting) of electricity so households can prioritize and simplify their electricity use in a rational way.
Telling families to reduce electricity use is unlikely to be successful but showing them how has a higher chance of delivering some impact.
Blog by Dr Paul Deane.
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