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Household Energy Consumption in England and Wales, 2005–11

Released: 16 August 2013 Download PDF

Abstract

This article uses domestic energy consumption data, produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and available on the Neighbourhood Statistics Service website, to explore the geographical variations in average (mean) total household energy consumption in England and Wales over time. Energy consumption statistics are an important means of assessing the impact of changes in environmental policy, structure and regulation of energy companies, public awareness of environmental issues and energy saving initiatives. This article will be of interest to those involved with environmental and energy policy-making and research, particularly at the regional and local level.

Acknowledgements

ONS would like to thank colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Welsh Government for their support in this publication.

Key points

  • Average total household energy consumption in England and Wales decreased by 24.7% from 2005 to 2011.

  • Household energy consumption varied regionally and was highest in the East Midlands for every year between 2005 and 2011.

  • Regional differences between the highest and lowest consumers of energy per household decreased by 35% from 2005 to 2011.

  • Out of the 20 local authorities that had the highest household energy consumption in 2011, 16 are in the East Midlands.

  • On average, households in all regions consumed more gas than electricity, and the amount of gas as a proportion of total energy consumption varied regionally.

  • The regions that had the highest total household energy consumption also had the highest Economy 7 electricity consumption as a proportion of total household energy consumption.

  • Some of the areas that had lower average household energy consumption do not receive piped gas and would have used other energy sources. 

Introduction

This article uses domestic energy consumption data from 2005 to 2011, produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and available on the Neighbourhood Statistics Service website, to explore the geographical variations in mean household energy consumption over time1. Domestic energy consumption is expressed as an average per electricity meter in this analysis2. The number of ordinary electricity meters has been used as a proxy for the number of households and so energy consumption is referred to throughout the article as average household energy consumption.

The article provides an overview of household energy consumption in 2011. It identifies energy consumption in England and Wales and how it varied across the English regions and Wales, as well as providing information about the local authorities that had the highest and lowest levels of energy consumption in 2011. Changes in household energy consumption from 2005 to 2011 by region, local authority and Middle Layer Super Output Area (MSOA) are reported. Differences in the scale and geographical variation in household energy consumption changes over the period are examined.

Small areas, Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs), are analysed in order to demonstrate the geographical distribution of household energy consumption across the English regions and Wales. To do this, the percentage of MSOAs in the English regions and Wales that fell within each quintile of overall energy consumption are reported.

Analysis is presented to show the breakdown of household energy consumption by type, identifying the proportion of gas and electricity consumed by each region as a proportion of total household energy consumption, and the proportion of Economy 7 electricity consumed as a proportion of all household energy consumption.

This article will be of interest to those involved with environmental and energy policy-making and research, particularly at the regional and local level, as well as those who require an understanding of the energy market, for example, utility companies and information groups such as UK Energy Watch which collates UK energy use and generation data.

Data used in this analysis do not include the amount of energy from wood, heating oil or other sources consumed domestically and so the total energy consumption of households may underestimate the true amount of total domestic energy consumed. According to 2011 Census data, the percentage of households in England and Wales that used heating oil, wood or other sources of energy to provide central heating was 6.4%. Wales had the highest proportion of households that used these other sources of energy (11.5%) and the North West had the lowest (3.5%). Energy consumption from these sources is not included in the domestic energy consumption data.

Domestic gas consumption data have been adjusted to take account of regional differences in weather which may have otherwise affected the geographical distribution of energy consumption.

Notes for Introduction

  1. See the background notes for more information about the calculation of mean household energy consumption, the weather correction applied and the geographic coverage of the data.
  2. The number of electricity meters has been used as a proxy for the number of households because the standard gas industry definition of domestic use uses a consumption threshold, with any consumer using less than 73,200 kWh of gas per year being classed as a domestic user. This classification can incorrectly allocate small businesses to the domestic sector and, conversely, a small number of larger domestic consumers to the non-domestic sector. Therefore, the number of domestic gas meters may be an overestimate. Electricity meters use a profile basis and are more stable in determining if the meter is a domestic meter.

Total Household Energy Consumption in 2011

Looking at average household energy consumption (for gas and electricity combined) in the English regions and Wales in 2011, the local authorities that had the highest and lowest household energy consumption have been identified.

In England and Wales overall, average household energy consumption was 19.7 megawatt hours (MWh) per household in 2011. Figure 1 shows the average household energy consumption for English regions and Wales in 2011.

Figure 1: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011

Figure 1: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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The East Midlands had an average household energy consumption of 27.5MWh in 2011, considerably higher than the overall figure for England and Wales (19.7MWh). The South West had the lowest energy consumption in 2011 (16.1 megawatt hours per household), which is closer to the overall England and Wales figure than is the East Midlands. Wales was similar to the South West in 2011, consuming an average of 16.3MWh per household. Regions in the North of England including the North East, North West and Yorkshire and The Humber had similar levels of household energy consumption to each other, but all consumed less household energy, on average, than England and Wales overall.

Examining the household energy consumption of local authorities, Table 1 shows the 10 highest and lowest energy consuming local authorities in 2011.

Table 1: Highest and lowest average total household energy consumption, local authorities, 2011

Local authority Region/Country Mean household energy consumption (megawatt hours)
Highest household energy consumption
Rutland East Midlands 36.0
Harborough East Midlands 35.8
Blaby East Midlands 35.4
Rushcliffe East Midlands 35.2
Oadby and Wigston East Midlands 35.1
Hinckley and Bosworth East Midlands 34.3
Derbyshire Dales East Midlands 32.9
Charnwood East Midlands 32.5
Melton East Midlands 32.5
Gedling East Midlands 32.3
Lowest household energy consumption
Isles of Scilly South West 11.4
Ceredigion Wales 11.5
Tower Hamlets London 12.2
City of London London 12.3
Powys Wales 12.4
Isle of Anglesey Wales 12.4
Torridge South West 13.1
Pembrokeshire Wales 13.1
Carmarthenshire Wales 13.2
Gwynedd Wales 13.3

Table source: Energy and Climate Change

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Table 1 shows that Rutland was the local authority that had the highest average household energy consumption in 2011 (36.0 MWh per household). In Rutland, household energy consumption was more than three times that of the Isles of Scilly and Ceredigion, the two local authorities which had the lowest energy consumption. All of the 10 local authorities that had the highest average household energy consumption in 2011 are in the East Midlands. In fact, 16 of the top 20 energy consuming local authorities are in the East Midlands.

In terms of lowest energy consumption, the local authorities that consumed the least energy in 2011 tended to be in more rural areas than did the highest energy consuming local authorities. The Isles of Scilly was the local authority that had the lowest household energy consumption in 2011 (11.4 MWh per household). The Isles of Scilly does not receive piped gas which means households here did not have any gas consumption recorded in the data. As a result, the average total household energy consumption would be lower than local authorities in which households receive piped gas. Two local authorities in London, Tower Hamlets and City of London, appear in the lowest household energy consumption top 10, and this goes against the general pattern of low energy consumption in more rural areas.

Local authorities in rural areas may be more likely to be in relatively isolated areas and so have a higher proportion of households without piped gas than those in less rural areas, and these households may use other sources of energy. As such, this could explain why eight of the top 10 lowest energy consuming local authorities were in Wales or the South West.

Distribution of Household Energy Consumption in Small Areas Within England and Wales

Data for household energy consumption are available at different geographical levels, including the Middle Layer Super Output Area (MSOA) level. MSOAs were designed to improve the reporting of small area statistics. They are geographical units built up from groups of Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs). Each local authority consists of between one (Isles of Scilly) and 131 (Birmingham) MSOAs1.

Map 1 shows the average household energy consumption for each of the 7,194 MSOAs in England and Wales in 2011.

Map 1: Average household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2011

Average household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

Notes:

  1. Boundaries are 2001 MSOA boundaries

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Map 1 shows that many of the MSOAs that had high average household energy consumption in 2011 centre around the East Midlands. There also appear to be areas of relatively high household energy consumption in a diagonal belt between the South East and the North West, whereas households in MSOAs across Wales and the South West tended to have lower energy consumption. In London, households in MSOAs on the outskirts of the city tended to have higher average energy consumption than London overall, whereas households within inner London MSOAs generally had lower average energy consumption than the region.

The ONS produces Small Area Income Estimates for MSOAs in England and Wales, which, when viewed in conjunction with household energy consumption, show that areas that consumed more household energy also tended to have higher levels of net income after taking account of housing costs. Households in areas where income is higher may therefore be more likely to consume more energy overall.

Figure 2 shows, for the English regions and Wales, the percentage of MSOAs that lie within each quintile of energy consumption for England and Wales overall. For example, taking the whole of England and Wales, 20% of all MSOAs lie within the highest household energy consumption quintile, 20% of MSOAs lie within the second highest quintile, and so on. By comparing the percentage of MSOAs in each quintile, it is possible to compare each region and Wales with England and Wales overall. This means that, if all regions contain 20% of MSOAs in each quintile, then household energy consumption would be evenly distributed across the English regions and Wales. The five colours on the chart show the percentage of MSOAs in each of the five energy consumption quintiles, with the highest energy consumption quintile shown by the darkest colour and the percentage of MSOAs in the lowest quintile shown by the lightest colour.

Figure 2: Household energy consumption quintile distribution for MSOAs, English regions and Wales, 2011

Figure 2: Household energy consumption quintile distribution for MSOAs, English regions and Wales, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 2 shows that the East Midlands had the largest percentage of MSOAs in the highest household energy consumption quintile out of all English regions and Wales (69.9%). This continues recent trends and is more than three times the proportion for England and Wales overall and considerably more than the East of England, the next highest region with 45.7% of its MSOAs in the highest household energy consumption quintile. The South West had the lowest proportion of MSOAs in the highest household energy consumption quintile (0.9%) out of all regions and Wales, and it had the largest proportion of its MSOAs in the lowest household energy consumption quintile (52.1%).

The relatively large variation in quintile distribution demonstrates that the regions of England and Wales were disparate in terms of household energy consumption in 2011.

Notes for Distribution of Household Energy Consumption in Small Areas Within England and Wales

  1. Information about Super Output Areas is available from ONS Geography

Changes in Household Energy Consumption, 2005–11

Historic energy consumption statistics for households in England and Wales are available for 2005 to 2011. These can be used to examine recent trends in subnational household energy consumption.

Figure 3 shows average household energy consumption for 2005 to 2011 in England and Wales, the East Midlands (the region that had the highest energy consumption per household over the period) and the South West (the region that had the lowest over the period).

Figure 3: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2005–11

Figure 3: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2005–11
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 3 shows that average household energy consumption in England and Wales decreased from 26.2 megawatt hours (MWh) in 2005 to 19.7MWh in 2011. This is a decrease of 24.7% over the period. Within England and Wales, the East Midlands had the highest household energy consumption for every year in the period, but this decreased 29.4% from 39.0MWh per household in 2005 to 27.5MWh in 2011. This was the largest decrease, in absolute terms of all the English regions and Wales (11.5MWh). However, in percentage terms, the West Midlands had the largest decrease in household energy consumption out of all the English regions and Wales (a fall of 30.0% from 29.0MWh in 2005 to 20.3MWh in 2011).

Over the seven year period, the South West had the lowest average household energy consumption for five of these years. The only two years when the South West did not record the lowest energy consumption were 2005 and 2010, when Wales had the lowest energy consumption per household.

Household energy consumption may have fallen in England and Wales in recent years for a number of reasons:

  • Household improvements such as better loft and cavity wall insulation1 have improved energy efficiency2 ,3.

  • Introduction of energy rating scales for properties4 and household appliances5, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases.

  • Improved efficiency of gas boilers and condensing boilers to supply properties with both hot water and central heating6.

  • Generally increasing public awareness of energy consumption and environmental issues7.

  • The price of gas and electricity in the UK overall increased in all years apart from 2010, between 2005 and 20118.

However, decreases in household energy consumption in small areas within England and Wales did not occur uniformly between 2005 and 2011. Map 2 shows the percentage change in average household energy consumption for small areas (Middle Layer Super Output Areas) in England and Wales between 2005 and 20119.

Map 2: Change in average total household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2005–11

Change in average total household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2005–11
Source: Energy and Climate Change

Notes:

  1. Boundaries are 2001 MSOA boundaries

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Map 2 shows that the vast majority of MSOAs in England and Wales had a decrease in average household energy consumption from 2005 to 2011. In fact, only 27 MSOAs had an increase in average energy consumption over the period. Many MSOAs in the East Midlands had large decreases in household energy consumption over the period, shown by the darkest areas on the map. Generally, average household energy consumption in areas of London decreased by a lower amount than England and Wales overall.

Within each of the English regions and Wales, some local authorities had large decreases in household energy consumption. Table 2 shows, for each region and Wales, the local authority with the largest decrease in energy consumption between 2005 and 2011. The figures for England and Wales overall have also been included in the table for comparison.

Table 2: Largest change in average household energy consumption, local authorities, 2005–11

Local authority with largest change in region Region 2005 energy consumption (MWh) 2011 energy consumption (MWh) Percentage change
Hinckley and Bosworth East Midlands 54.9 34.3 -37.5
Shropshire West Midlands 23.8 15.7 -34.0
Forest Heath East 32.3 21.5 -33.4
Gloucester South West 25.5 17.5 -31.3
Adur South East 34.5 23.9 -30.8
Wigan North West 25.1 17.5 -30.5
Haringey London 31.9 23.0 -28.0
Pembrokeshire Wales 18.0 13.1 -27.2
Gateshead North East 24.2 18.1 -25.3
Scarborough Yorkshire and The Humber 23.9 18.0 -24.9
England and Wales overall 26.2 19.7 -32.8

Table source: Energy and Climate Change

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Table 2 shows that all of the English regions and Wales contain a local authority which had an average household energy consumption decrease larger than the overall England and Wales change from 2005 to 2011. The largest household energy consumption decrease was in Hinckley and Bosworth in the East Midlands (a decrease of 37.5%). In Hinckley and Bosworth there was a reduction of household energy consumption of 20.6MWh. This reduction is greater than the amount of household energy consumption for England and Wales overall in 2011 (19.7MWh) and also greater than the amount of household energy consumption overall in seven of the English regions and Wales.

Scarborough was the local authority that had the largest household energy consumption change in Yorkshire and The Humber (a decrease of 24.9%) which was similar to the overall change in England and Wales (a decrease of 24.7%).

Notes for Changes in Household Energy Consumption, 2005–11

  1. According to data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the estimated proportion of homes with loft insulation in the UK increased from 44.0% in April 2008 to 59.6% in October 2011.
  2. For more information about the uptake of energy efficiency measures in homes, see the National Energy Efficiency Data-Framework summary of analysis.
  3. In 2003, the UK Government published the Energy White Paper, which set out its strategic vision for the future of energy policy.
  4. The European Parliament and Council’s Directive on the energy performance of buildings came into force in 2002.
  5. The European Parliament and Council’s Directive on the energy performance of household appliances was first introduced in 1992 and has been amended more recently.
  6. The European Parliament and Council’s Directive on the energy performance of boilers was first introduced in 1992.
  7. In 2006, The European Commission published the Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential, which cited “increased awareness and behavioural change” as an important driver of reducing energy consumption.
  8. According to data from the fuel component of the Retail Prices Index, the price of domestic gas increased from an index 100 in 2005, to 201.4 in 2011. The price of domestic electricity increased from an index of 100 in 2005, to 166.1 in 2011.
  9. Information about Super Output Areas is available from ONS Geography.

Household energy consumption by type

Average household energy consumption can be broken down by the proportion of gas and electricity consumed. Figure 4 shows the proportion of household gas consumption as a percentage of total household energy consumption by region in 2011.

Figure 4: Average household energy consumption by type, 2011

Figure 4: Average household energy consumption by type, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 4 shows that the North East consumed the most gas proportionally (79.1%) and the South West consumed the least (67.7%) in 2011. This could be the result of fewer households in the South West receiving piped gas compared with other regions, and therefore using less gas proportionally.

Looking at the breakdown of household electricity consumption, figure 5 shows the average household Economy 7 electricity consumption as a percentage of total average household electricity consumption1.

Figure 5: Average household Economy 7 electricity consumption as a percentage of total energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011

Figure 5: Average household Economy 7 electricity consumption as a percentage of total energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 5 shows that the East of England had the highest consumption of Economy 7 electricity as a percentage of all household energy consumption (11.8%) and the East Midlands had the second highest Economy 7 electricity consumption (11.4%). These were also the regions that consumed the most household energy overall. It could be that households which receive some electricity at a cheaper rate, may use more energy overall because it is cheaper. Having said that, Figure 4 shows, as a percentage of total average household energy consumption, the East of England consumed 71.9% of its energy from gas whereas Economy 7 electricity consumption accounted for a relatively small proportion of total household energy consumption.

The North East had the lowest consumption of Economy 7 electricity as a percentage of all household energy consumption (2.2%). Despite this, the North East had the third lowest total average household energy consumption which further suggests that Economy 7 electricity consumption does not fully account for the patterns of total average household energy consumption.

Notes for Household energy consumption by type

  1. Economy 7 is an electricity tariff which offers a dual rate of charge for electricity, one for electricity used during the day and another, cheaper, rate for electricity used during seven hours of the night.

Summary

Statistics on household energy consumption in England and Wales for 2005 to 2011 are available from the Neighbourhood Statistics Service website for a variety of geographies. These data can be used to show that average household energy consumption in England and Wales has consistently decreased over this period. There are numerous reasons why household energy consumption may have decreased in recent years. These could include the effects of European Union directives leading to improvements in property insulation and energy efficiency, the introduction of energy ratings for properties and household appliances, and a general increase in public awareness on issues of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Energy consumption data show that average household energy consumption varied geographically. Within the English regions and Wales, the East Midlands had the highest mean household energy consumption in 2011, as it had in previous years, although energy consumption there decreased by 29.4% from 2005 to 2011. The West Midlands had the largest decrease in household energy consumption of any English region and Wales over the period, at 30.0%.

Analysis of Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) revealed that 69.9% of MSOAs in the East Midlands were in the highest energy consumption quintile in 2011. This was considerably higher than the South West where 0.9% of MSOAs were in the highest quintile in 2011.

The household energy consumption data used in this article could also be used for further analysis. Such analysis could include, but is not limited to:

  • Examining the distribution of energy consumption at the Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA), and how this has changed over time.

  • Assessing the geographical variation in energy consumption in terms of the rural-urban classification of areas.

  • Linking energy consumption to measures of disposable household income, fuel poverty and Indices of Multiple Deprivation.

  • Exploring the relationship between 2011 Census data on housing stock and household energy consumption. 

Background notes

  1. Measuring energy consumption:

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change produces energy consumption data that shows the total gas, electricity and Economy 7 electricity consumption in each area. To conduct analysis of energy consumption at the household level, a proxy measure of mean total fuel consumption per household, for a given year in a given area, was calculated as follows:

    Calculating mean total household energy consumption

    Calculating mean total household energy consumption

    Notes:

    1. Where:

      • C = Mean total household energy consumption

      • G = Total household gas consumption

      • O = Total household ordinary electricity consumption

      • E = Total household Economy 7 electricity consumption

      • M = Number of ordinary domestic electricity meters

    The number of domestic electricity meters has been used as a proxy for the number of households in this article. In reality though, the two cannot be used interchangeably because electricity meters in an area will generally be an overestimate of the number of households (more so in some areas than in others). For example, in 2011 the total number of electricity meters was 24.5 million which is greater than the estimated number of households according to the 2011 Census, at 24.4 million. This is for a number of reasons:

    • The total number of electricity meters includes both ordinary and Economy 7 electricity meters. Households with an Economy 7 electricity meter also have an ordinary electricity meter.

    • Some households can have more than one electricity meter associated with their property and therefore the number of electricity meters used may be an overestimate of the true number of households. This is particularly an issue with flats, with some supplies for communal areas such as lobbies, lifts and stairwells having a separate supply. For example, a block of six flats could have a total of seven electricity meters.

    • A small number of meters do not have sufficient information associated with them to be able to allocate them to a country and are referred to as ‘Unallocated’ meters. Therefore, country values for the number of gas and electricity meters may be an underestimate of the true number of meters.

    Further information about measuring energy consumption is included in the methodology and guidance notes on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website.

  2. Weather correction:

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has an agreement with all the electricity suppliers in Great Britain, whereby they agree to provide DECC with annualised consumption data for each Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN) or electricity meter. The consumption data for each MPAN is not weather corrected and represents consumption covering the 365 days commencing in late January each year. As well as the meter number and energy consumption, DECC also receive address point data for each meter.

    A similar process is used to compile the gas data. Gas transporters supply DECC with the Annualised Quantity (AQ) for each Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) or gas meter as well as addresses points data. An AQ is an estimate of annualised consumption using two meter readings at least six months apart and the closing reading is taken within the period 1 October to 30 September. The estimate is then weather corrected to reflect a 17 year trend. The MPRN data is then matched to a local authority and SOAs using the National Statistics Postcode Directory and the Postal Address File (PAF).

  3. Geographic coverage:

    Domestic energy consumption data are available for the English regions and Wales, local authorities and MSOAs as National Statistics and can be used in a time series analysis. LSOA data are also available and currently designated as Experimental Statistics.

    There have been improvements in matching the meter point data to local authorities, MSOAs and LSOAs which will affect the comparability of data over time. Data for previous years are not revised to take account of improved matching.

    In processing this data for publication ONS has carried out checks to ensure the quality of the data.

  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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