Demystifying Energy Demand using a Practice-centric Agent-based Model

The rational choice framework is commonly used in many energy demand models and energy economic policy models. However, the notion of reasoned decision-making underpinning the rational actor models is less useful to explain the dynamics of routine household activities (e.g., cooking, showering, heating, etc.) which result in energy use. An alternative body of work collectively referred to as social practice theories offers a more practical explanation of routines. It is also argued that practices, i.e. the routine activities that people do in the service of normal everyday living, is at the centre of social change, and hence should be the focus of interventions concerned with demand reduction. One of the main criticisms of social practice theories, however, is that the concepts proposed are high-level and abstract and hence difficult to apply to real-world problems. Most existing practice-centric models are also abstract implementations. To address this gap, in this paper, we present a concrete, empirically-based practice-centric agent-based model to simulate the dynamics of household heating practices. We also use the model to explore consumer response to a simulated price-based demand response scheme. We show how a practice-centric approach leads to a more realistic understanding of the energy use patterns of households by revealing the underlying contexts of consumption. The overall motivation is that by gaining insight into the trajectories of unsustainable energy consuming practices, it might be possible to propose alternative pathways that allow more sustainable practices to take hold.
Narasimhan, K.
Gilbert, N.
Hope, A.
Roberts, T.
Tuesday, 30 January, 2018