The Future Home Life Report, conducted by the Monash University’s ETLab researchers, has offered insights into the way digital lifestyle trends are impacting energy demands. The report presents 45 trends and 10 principles to inform energy planning and forecasting what home life looks like in the future.

The team investigated seven areas of home life, where the majority of energy demand and peak electricity demand occurs currently, or is anticipated to increase in the future. These include charging and mobility, cooking and eating, heating and cooling and working and studying from home. As emerging technologies, platforms and services become part of people’s digital lifestyles, their activities across all these areas are changing, along with their relationship to energy.

Co-author of the report, Associate Professor Yolande Strengers, says there are a range of activities and factors that have shaped the report.

“What’s more, people anticipate that the home will become even more important to them as they age, with healthcare and aged care increasingly home-based. That all has consequences for energy demand,” she says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the lifestyle trends we uncovered, but many householders we spoke to expect them to continue. For instance, people are becoming more interested in health and care technologies, such as air purifiers, to remove allergens and pathogens related to bushfire smoke, pets or pollen, or alleviate concerns about the spread of coronavirus.”

Entertainment, recreation and leisure pursuits are anticipated to be of a higher importance at home in future. Emerging entertainment technologies like virtual reality, setting up elaborate gaming consoles and establishing home cinemas are furthering this mindset. Home occupants are using more devices simultaneously in different parts of the home, which may increase energy demand for heating and cooling. 

Co-author and Research Fellow in the ETLab, Dr Kari Dahlgren says innovative, future-focused social science research can help energy planning and forecasting take into account diverse households.

“It’s important that energy sector planning takes into account how emerging trends will unfold differently across households, for example the rate of growth in apartment living, more people working from home and vulnerable consumers’ interests should be considered in the development of our future energy system.”

This report forms part of the landmark Digital Energy Futures project. The Future Home Life Report is supported by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects Funding Scheme in partnership with Monash University, Ausgrid, AusNet Services and Energy Consumers Australia.

Lynne Gallagher, CEO of Energy Consumers Australia, an industry partner on the Digital Energy Futures project, says the Future Home Life report provides an important contribution to understanding consumer behaviour and how consumers think about and use energy. 

“The report identified that households are becoming increasingly diverse both in terms of the technology they have and the way they use it to manage their energy, which means the timing and level of energy use is also more diverse. It’s also apparent that the way industry thinks consumers will use technology are not necessarily borne out in practice,” she says. 

“A better understanding of consumer behaviour means we can identify more effective ways to design new energy services and markets that meet consumer’s needs, helping us achieve a modern, flexible and affordable system that delivers energy to households when and how they want it.”  
The 10 key principles for future home life put forward by the report will help guide and inform energy forecasting, energy policy and demand management programs. The principles include accounting for diverse forms of digital DIY, the increasing insecurity and ongoing transition of people’s futures that will resist segmentation and complicate forecasting, the growing importance of care as a moral imperative to ensure health and wellbeing that is creating new energy demands and expecting accelerating work-life flexibility and home-based working. 

To view the full report, click here.