Energy epidemiology is a means to investigate causes and effects of key factors affecting energy demand within a population or sub-populations, which may relate to various scales from individuals and buildings to communities or building complexes.
The study of energy demand is in its infancy compared to well established health research. Since the 1970s much of the research has focused on theoretical and laboratory-based research of energy efficiency components with little understanding of how the components interact in a complex socio-technical system (i.e. as part of a building, with complex technical features, in a specific community/environment and subject to different interactions with different people). As a result, the difference between the expected and actual situation is often drastic. As our understanding and our requirement for better answers develop, our need for a more holistic approach has become more apparent.
The word “epidemiology” is most commonly attributed to the study of outbreaks of contagious diseases in a population – “epidemics”. English physician, John Snow, often credited as the father of modern epidemiology, combined an understanding of people, statistics, geography and medicine to better control outbreaks of cholera in the 1800s. Since then, a more holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the spread of disease has become commonplace in shaping policy, assessing risk and benefiting public health. We believe that such a holistic approach should now be applied to the field of energy research.
The UK has an obligation to make major changes to the way we currently use energy to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. However, early efforts to bring about real reductions have struggled to make an impact. We believe a deeper understanding based on a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach and empirical data analysis will be key to bridging the gap between our legally binding targets and delivery. By applying the lessons learned from over 150 years of epidemiology in health to the field of energy use, we can better equip policymakers, industry and the wider public with the information and tools they need to address our future energy challenges.
What is energy epidemiology?
CEE Director Tadj Oreszczyn explains
“epi” – upon; “demos” – the people; “ology” – logic, study
The study of what is upon the people – normally applied to the study of health
The systematic study of the distributions and patterns of energy use and their causes or influences in populations.