Homeworking Can Be Net Positive, Evidence from the UK Lockdown during COVID-19

Research Seminars

The study presented in this Research Seminar explores the effect of shifts in teleworking and work related commuting patterns on energy consumption in the domestics sector during the 2020 spring lockdown in the UK, and its wider implications towards achieving lower carbon footprint. Smart meter data from 1,164 participating households shows that it could have been the case that homeworking shifted electricity demand away from the peak, at high carbon content, to other times of the day, at lower carbon content. As a result, weekly electricity consumption rose by 10.3% on average during lockdown. This may indicate great potential for a nation wide systems based change alongside behavioural changes to further reduce carbon emissions in the future. Isolating from the effect of the grid’s carbon intensity being lower, electricity driven emissions among participating households increased by a few percentage points less then consumption, which indicates that a smoothing of demand has a positive impact already. The authors then control for work related changes in household occupancy during lockdown in their sample of 452 survey respondents. Not only do their results show that working from home accounts for a significant share of the lockdown effect on electricity driven emissions, but overall, the household carbon emissions largely decreased in response to changes in commuting patterns. Reductions in carbon emissions are estimated to approach 29% on average, and by far offset the rise in electricity driven emissions during the same period of time. This is an avenue for companies to reduce their environmental footprint by implementing flexible working scheme and allowing employees to work from home.