Changing demand in household with children

Date 24 September 2015

Presenter: Dr Larissa Nicholls

Time-of-Use (TOU) tariffs are being introduced in Australia with the aim of reducing electricity demand at peak times (e.g. afternoons and evenings on days of extreme heat). This is expected to reduce the need for expensive and underutilised infrastructure investments and associated increases in electricity prices for households.

TOU tariffs are presented as opportunities for households to save money but outcomes depend on flexibility in household practices. Households with children have higher peak electricity consumption and this study investigated the reasons for this and the likely outcomes of TOU tariffs for this household type. We conducted forty-four interviews and home tours followed by a survey (547 responses) of households with children. Our analysis found that households with children experience a 'family peak' during which practices are particularly coordinated, interlinked and routinised. Practices were meaningful beyond their commonly assumed functions. The talk will discuss these practices and why flexibility is constrained during the peak period. We conclude that TOU tariffs are unlikely to effectively reduce peak period electricity consumption in households with children and may have inequitable financial and/or social impacts for these households. Alternative approaches that better engage with the dynamics of social practice in family households are suggested.

Dr Larissa Nicholls is a Research Fellow at RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research. Larissa is interested in social change for better outcomes and conducts research relating to health and wellbeing, neighbourhood design, energy consumption, equity and sustainability. Understanding the complexity of social and household practices is central to this work. Larissa has previously coordinated home energy efficiency retrofit programs and worked as a home sustainability assessor. Larissa has worked with disadvantaged and CALD households in various capacities including a community cafe training initiative in the City of Darebin.  Larissa completed a PhD in Medicine at the University of Melbourne.

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