Understanding Energy Contexts: An Assessment of Emerging Methods for the Thermo-Behavioural Characterization of Residential Households
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Unlocking the full potential of residential-sector energy efficiency gains will require the efforts of external agents (whether in the public, private, or not-for profit sectors) engaging with individual homeowners in order to encourage the adoption of energy-saving measures. To achieve this result efficiently and effectively, such agents require an easily-obtained understanding of the “energy context" governing a household's energy use and efficiency investment decisions: factors from the number, characteristics, attitudes, and values of occupants to the physical state of a dwelling to broader geographic, financial and legal considerations. Continuously-emerging sources of contextual and household-specific data have the potential, if integrated appropriately, to provide this understanding - but to what extent can this be achieved with current methodological tools, and can the state-of-the-art be improved? This research has attempted to address this question, with an emphasis on the physical characteristics of homes and the behavioural patterns of their occupants. A review of existing characterization techniques in the literature yielded a set of methodological best practises and theoretical shortfalls, which were integrated with physical first principles and empirically-observed statistical trends to develop new modelling approaches to make use of hourly whole-house electricity consumption data, aiming to improve upon the state-of-the-art. A subset of these models (chosen for their speed and stability of parameter estimation) were compared to existing techniques: while one of the novel approaches yielded improved behavioural disaggregation performance and a simpler formulation compared to existing alternatives, there would seem to remain considerable opportunity for continued improvement, with results suggesting several potentially-promising areas for continued research.