UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


LUKES (Longitudinal UK Energy Survey)

The UCL Centre for Energy Epidemiology (CEE) together with the STEaPP and the National Centre for Social Research are working on a project supported by the UK government Department of Energy and Climate Change on the feasibility of a large-scale UK longitudinal panel of energy use in homes and businesses. 

In carrying out this work, CEE and partners are helping DECC fulfil one commitment from the recently published Developing DECC's Evidence Base. The study, started in January 2014, aims to advise HM Government and the Research Councils UK in the summer of 2014 on whether a large scale panel following homes and businesses year on year is a cost effective investment.

The study will look at the case for such a panel - tagged the 'UK Energy Lab' - as well as the design and methods needed to execute it in the context of energy. A unique feature of the study will be the consideration of how social elements can be combined with technical elements to understand energy use in a nationally-representative study. Linked to this is the recent open call announced by the CEE on measurement - outputs from this open call may provide innovative socio-technical research methods which could be used in a future panel.

The feasibility study is now completed and the reports are available below.


The feasibility study report is structured in the form of an Executive Summary, main Synthesis Report, and a series of annexes and appendices as follows:

Lead Authors: Adam Cooper (UCL STEaPP); David Shipworth (UCL EI); Alun Humphrey (NatCen)
Co-authors (UCL): Simon Elam; Gesche Huebner; Rob Liddiard; Phil Steadman; Ian Hamilton; Michelle Shipworth
Co-authors (NatCen): Gareth Morrell; Anni Oskala; Alison Park


The feasibility study concluded that there were a range of powerful strategic reasons for establishment of a new National scale survey of energy use in homes and that such a survey should have a longitudinal panel design. There are four key reasons underlying this.

1. Effective management of a rapid decarbonisation transition

In order to achieve the rapid decarbonisation legislated in the UK Climate Change Act 2008, it will be necessary to have largely decarbonised the UK housing stock by 2040 in order to allow some headroom for carbon emissions from less easily decarbonised sectors of the economy.
To put the speed of this transition in context, it is a period equivalent to one generation, around two boiler replacements, approximately four times the average time a household stays in a dwelling (~7 years), or 5 fixed-term parliaments. To effect change at this rate requires ways of measuring and monitoring energy that can track the rate at which different groups (cohorts) change energy demand, explain how they differ, why they differ, and provide insights into how we may accelerate positive changes and counteract negative ones. We currently have no mechanism in place capable of doing this, the LUKES is designed to provide such a capability.

2. Minimising overall energy system infrastructure deployment financial costs and political risks

The costs of retrofitting and upgrading buildings, installing distributed generation systems, and smart-energy control systems to decarbonise the residential sector is in the hundreds of billions. The provision of detailed, disaggregated, data for better targeting the upgrading the energy system, from building retrofit, to installation of distributed generation at the home or district scale, to smart-energy infrastructure is therefore of paramount importance in minimising the overall financial costs and political risks of meeting the decarbonisation targets. This requires understanding how to match the physical form and fabric of dwellings, to technically appropriate heating systems, and to consumer segments that will accept and use these systems appropriately. This is an intrinsically socio-technical issue, as we know that prior experience of heating and control technologies influences acceptability of new systems, and that, for example, the efficiency of heat pumps is influenced by the thermal time-constant of the dwelling. These effects make both the matching, and the sequencing of interventions critical to efficiency and acceptability of large-scale energy system programmes. While these interactions are known from case studies, they have never been quantified at the National scale in ways that would allow development of National scale programmes, or in ways that would allow for the identification of target market segments from available data. The need for understanding sequential effects necessitates the longitudinal nature of LUKES, while the need to understand social as well as technical feasibility and their interactions necessitates the socio-technical nature of LUKES.

3. Driving much better value out of existing investment in energy research

UK public sector R&D expenditure on energy research has risen sharply in the last decade with current spending around £300 million per annum. This expenditure has gone into a large range of initiatives across organisations including DECC, RCUK, TSB, ETI, Ofgem, Carbon Trust and others. These recent initiatives can be categorised broadly along the following lines:

  • Whole energy systems modelling initiatives
  • Whole energy systems research and development initiatives
  • Big data initiatives
  • Smart-grid initiatives
  • Catalytic and coordinating energy research initiates

Collectively, these initiatives vary in their aims, but none of these initiatives provides, or plans to provide, a fundamental overview of energy demand in homes at the national scale, or its social, physical and environmental drivers and their rates of change. Each of these initiatives however, will be significantly enhanced through having access to such data. LUKES is designed to add value to existing UK investment in energy RD&D.

4. Creating a focal point for understanding energy

Workshops held across government departments and the academic community identified the common need for high quality, disaggregated, socio-technical data on energy demand. The government driver was the need for strategic oversight of how energy is used across all major household and dwelling combinations differentiated by energy end use in the home. The academic driver was the need for a 'statistical backcloth' into which smaller scale studies could be attached in order to contextualise these studies against the national picture. There was common concern that this data be provided to national statistical standards, in a timely manner, and to known degrees of accuracy and precision that took into account instrument accuracy as well as sampling errors. All parties wanted the capacity to disaggregate the data by household characteristics, dwelling characteristics, heating system technology characteristics, geographic region, and have disaggregated end use energy demand data within the home. Government sought the capacity to differentiate between such sectors to within a few per cent. LUKES is designed to provide data across the identified important sociodemographic, building demographic, technical and geographic sub sectors of the UK stock of homes to know levels of accuracy and precision.

These strategic drivers provide a powerful argument for the need for a facility the likes of which LUKES would provide. The report expands on these and a host of additional arguments, as well as assessing all aspects of the feasibility of establishing such a research facility, from funding requirements to governance structures, from research design to pragmatics and piloting of the next stages of establishing a new Longitudinal UK Energy Survey.


The LUKES feasibility study report has served its primary purpose of establishing the need for, technical feasibility of, and costs associated with, establishing a new longitudinal survey in this field. Over the coming moths DECC will instigate subsequents stages expanding on this research programme. Its impact will be determined by the outcomes of these subsequent stages.

STEaPP and Energy Institute contributors

Cooper 2016

Dr Adam Cooper co-directs the project from UCL STEaPP

David Shipworth
Dr David Shipworth co-directs the project from the UCL Energy Institute




  • Department of Energy & Climate Change
  • NatCen Social Research