Structural, geographic, and social factors in urban building energy use: Analysis of aggregated account-level consumption data in a megacity
Residential and commercial buildings comprise approximately forty percent of total energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Yet, while California spends $1.5 billion annually on energy efficiency programs, limited research has explored how building energy consumption varies within cities, including the social and structural factors that influence electricity and natural gas use. We present results from an analysis of aggregated account-level utility billing data for energy consumption across the over two million properties in Los Angeles County. Results show that consumption in L.A. County varies widely with geography, income, building characteristics, and climate. Several higher-income areas have greater total energy use per building even in cooler climates, while many lower-income regions rank higher for energy use per square-foot. Energy consumption also correlates with building age, which varies widely throughout the region. Our results demonstrate the many complex and interrelated factors that influence urban energy use. While billing data is critical for devising energy efficiency programs that actually realize estimated savings and promote more sustainable cities, opening access to such data presents significant challenges for protecting personal privacy. The presented approach is adaptable and scalable to cities seeking to develop data-driven policies to reduce building energy use.