The world currently faces an increasingly uncertain and diverse set of energy futures, facilitated by climate change, the increasing integration of distributed energy sources, and people’s changing digital-enabled lifestyles.
Digital Energy Futures is funded through the Australian Research Council Linkage Projects scheme as a three-year $2.3 million partnership between Monash University, Ausgrid, AusNet Services and Energy Consumers Australia Limited, to better understand how emerging technologies will impact our future energy needs.
This research aims to understand and forecast changing digital lifestyle trends and their impact on future household electricity demand, including at peak times.
The project will involve almost 200 residential energy consumers in in-depth research activities, making it the most extensive sociological study of energy demand and consumers’ energy futures conducted in Australia.
The project expects to generate new knowledge by employing digital ethnography and sociological theories to investigate how changing social practices will impact on electricity sector planning.
The research explores how emerging technologies are changing people’s digital-enabled lifestyles across a number of practice domains in the home. These include working, studying and collaboration, entertainment, comfort and care, housekeeping, transport, and energy-related practices involving emerging technologies, platforms and services.
A key innovation of the project is the development of future-focused scenarios for everyday life based on people’s own understanding of their futures, specifically their expectations and aspirations for how they are going to live with digital and energy technologies in the near (2025-30) and medium-far (2030-50) future. These timelines are designed to align with the forecasting cycles of electricity distribution businesses.
The project’s consumer-centred scenarios will also be informed by digital and energy industry visions for the future of technologies and energy in homes, to ensure alignment with current forecasting and scenarios already in the public domain.
Expected outcomes include scenarios and principles for digital energy futures to help guide energy forecasting, energy policy and demand management programs; an interdisciplinary energy demand forecasting methodology; and demand management tools to help the sector meet future residential consumption.
The project will also advance social science-led futures research, experimenting with new methodologies to develop non-predictive future scenarios, with transferable insights for other sectors.
The DEF project is expected to provide significant energy sector and consumer benefits by improving energy forecasting and planning. These benefits could include lowering the cost of infrastructure spending and helping secure affordable, equitable energy provisions and sustainable futures for Australian households.