The effects of home energy efficiency upgrades on social housing tenants: Evidence from Ireland

December 31, 2018

Energy Efficiency, Vol. 11(8), December 2018, pp. 2077-2100.

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This research examines some of the multiple benefits of a home energy efficiency upgrade programme for social housing tenants. Employing a quasi-experimental approach, we examine a range of objectively measured and self-reported outcomes, including metered gas consumption, for a control and upgrade group, before and after the upgrade. We drew our sample from a large home energy efficiency programme in Ireland, The SEAI Better Energy Communities Scheme, which provides funding for whole communities to upgrade the efficiency of their dwellings. Dwellings were selected for upgrade based on need, allowing us to control for observable dwelling characteristics correlated with selection into the trial. The upgrades undertaken were extensive relative to the average home energy improvement, with many dwellings receiving a number of measures. Households reported improvements across a range of outcomes associated with heating-related deprivation and comfort in the home. We use panel regression models to estimate the elasticity of gas demand with respect to the thermal efficiency of the dwellings. Overall, we find that use of natural gas fell much less than 1:1 for each increment to thermal efficiency of the home. For the average household in this study, about one third of the marginal increase in thermal efficiency was reflected in reduced gas demand. This result highlights issues with standard engineering models which are commonly used to assess the energy efficiency of dwellings and points to a behavioural response from households, potentially taking back some of the savings as increased internal temperatures.