The short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on household energy consumption in England and Wales


The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many people lived, worked, and studied around the world, both during and after the lockdowns. Changes to daily routines affected domestic electricity and gas use. While early studies estimated the impact of the first national lockdown, the long-term effects remain under-researched. In this paper we analyse how domestic electricity and gas consumption changed in the two years since the first UK lockdown in terms of both total demand and timing of demand. We develop counterfactual (predictive) models using elastic net regression, neural networks, and extreme gradient boosting and compare observed energy use with predicted use given weather and calendar variables for each household (508 for electricity, 326 for gas). We apply cluster analysis to identify common daily energy demand profiles and observe the changes in the proportions of households in each cluster for 3540 (electricity) and 2850 (gas) households between January 2020 and March 2022. We compare the results for different subsamples, such as those with and without children or working adults, households with different levels of financial wellbeing, and households in different Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) bands. We find that the pandemic increased electricity consumption throughout the two-year period, and increased gas consumption during the winter lockdowns. Demand profiles for weekdays became more similar to those on weekends for households with children or with adults in work. On average electricity consumption was still around 5% higher than predicted at the start of 2022, largely due to increased use in households with children. On average, gas consumption was lower than predicted during winter 2021/22, which may be attributable to rising gas prices.

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