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Household Energy Consumption in England and Wales, 2005–11

Released: 16 August 2013 Download PDF

Abstract

The methodology used for this article was updated on 21 February 2014 to include the number of Economy 7 electricity meters with the number of ordinary electricity meters in the denominator of the calculation of mean household energy consumption. This provides a better proxy of the number of households and therefore better estimates of average household energy consumption. This article uses domestic energy consumption data, produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and available on the Neighbourhood Statistics Service website, to explore the geographical variations in average (mean) total household energy consumption in England and Wales over time. Energy consumption statistics are an important means of assessing the impact of changes in environmental policy, structure and regulation of energy companies, public awareness of environmental issues and energy saving initiatives. This article will be of interest to those involved with environmental and energy policy-making and research, particularly at the regional and local level.

Acknowledgements

ONS would like to thank colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Welsh Government for their support in this publication.

Key points

  • Average household energy consumption in England and Wales decreased by 22.3% between 2005 and 2011.

  • Average household energy consumption varied regionally and was lowest in the South West for every year between 2005 and 2011.

  • Over the period 2005 to 2011 differences between the regions with the highest and lowest levels of average household energy consumption decreased by 34%.

  • Out of the 10 local authorities that had the highest average household energy consumption in 2011, eight were in the South East.

  • Generally, households in all regions and Wales consumed more gas than electricity, and there was a noticeable variation in gas consumption as a proportion of total energy consumption.

  • The East of England had the highest Economy 7 electricity consumption as a proportion of total household energy consumption.

  • Some of the areas that had lower average household energy consumption do not receive piped gas and would have used other energy sources. 

Introduction

This article uses domestic energy consumption data (for gas and electrcity) from 2005 to 20111,2, produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and available on the Neighbourhood Statistics Service website, to explore the geographical variations in mean household energy consumption over time3. Domestic energy consumption is expressed as an average per electricity meter in this analysis4. The number of ordinary electricity meters plus the number of Economy 7 meters has been used as a proxy for the number of households and so energy consumption is referred to throughout the article as average household energy consumption. This method was used as it can be carried out using the dataset available on the Neighbourhood Statistics website. Note however that household energy consumption data which uses the number of households as a denominator is available from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The article provides an overview of household energy consumption in 2011. It identifies energy consumption in England and Wales and how it varied across the English regions and Wales, as well as providing information about the local authorities that had the highest and lowest levels of energy consumption. Changes in household energy consumption from 2005 to 2011 by region, local authority and Middle Layer Super Output Area (MSOA) are reported. Differences in the scale and geographical variation in household energy consumption over the period are examined.

Small areas, Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs), are analysed in order to demonstrate the geographical distribution of household energy consumption across the English regions and Wales. To do this, the percentage of MSOAs in the English regions and Wales that fell within each quintile of overall energy consumption are reported.

Analysis is presented to show the breakdown of household energy consumption by energy type, identifying the proportion of gas and electricity consumed by households within each region as a proportion of their total household energy consumption, and the proportion of Economy 7 electricity consumed as a proportion of all household energy consumption.

This article will be of interest to those involved with environmental and energy policy-making and research, particularly at the regional and local level, as well as those who require an understanding of the energy market, for example, utility companies and information groups such as UK Energy Watch which collates UK energy use and generation data.

Data used in this analysis do not include the amount of energy from wood, heating oil or other non gas and electricity sources consumed domestically and so the total energy consumption of households may underestimate the true amount of total domestic energy consumed. According to 2011 Census data, the percentage of households in England and Wales that used heating oil, wood or other non gas and electricity sources of energy to provide central heating was 6.4%. Wales had the highest proportion of households that used these other sources of energy (11.5%) and the North West had the lowest (3.5%). Energy consumption from these sources is not included in the domestic energy consumption data.

Domestic gas consumption data have been adjusted to take account of regional differences in weather which may have otherwise affected the geographical distribution of energy consumption.

Notes for Introduction

  1. Gas consumption data covers the period 1 October to 30 September rather than the calendar year and electricity data covers the period late January to late January (the exact date varies each year).
  2. Energy consumption in this article refers to gas and electricity consumption and excludes other types of household fuel consumption. Estimates for 'residual' fuels such as oil and wood are available at local authority level from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
  3. See the background notes for more information about the calculation of mean household energy consumption, the weather correction applied and the geographic coverage of the data.
  4. The number of electricity meters has been used as a proxy for the number of households under the assumtion that all households have access to electricity, as opposed to metered gas which some households do not have access to. The definitition of a domestic gas meter is a gas meter with less than 73,200kWh. Therefore, estimates can include usage by small businesses, therefore overestimating the consumption of households. Conversely, high consuming households will be excluded. Electricity meters use a profile basis and are relatively stable in determining if the meter is a domestic meter.

Total Household Energy Consumption in 2011

Looking at average household energy consumption (for gas and electricity combined) in the English regions and Wales in 2011, the local authorities that had the highest and lowest household energy consumption have been identified.

In England and Wales overall, average household energy consumption was 16.1 megawatt hours (MWh) per household in 2011. Figure 1 shows the average household energy consumption for English regions and Wales in 2011.

Figure 1: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011

Figure 1: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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The South West had an average household energy consumption of 13.4MWh in 2011, lower than the overall figure for England and Wales (16.1MWh) and lower than any other English region and Wales. Wales had the next lowest household energy consumption in 2011, consuming an average of 14.9MWh per household. Regions in the north of England covering the North East, North West and Yorkshire and The Humber had similar levels of household energy consumption to each other, and households in these regions consumed more energy on average than households in England and Wales overall.

Examining the average household energy consumption of local authorities, Table 1 shows the local authorities with the 10 highest and lowest average household energy consumption in 2011.

Table 1: Highest and lowest average household energy consumption, local authorities, 2011

Local authority Region/Country Mean household energy consumption (megawatt hours)
Highest household energy consumption
South Bucks South East 23.9
Elmbridge South East 23.1
Chiltern South East 22.9
Surrey Heath South East 21.9
Tandridge South East 21.5
Mole Valley South East 21.4
Three Rivers East 21.1
Harrow London 20.7
Epsom and Ewell South East 20.7
Waverley South East 20.7
Lowest household energy consumption
Isles of Scilly South West 6.6
Ceredigion Wales 8.3
City of London London 10.2
West Somerset South West 10.2
Isle of Anglesey Wales 10.3
Cornwall South West 10.3
Gwynedd Wales 10.3
Torridge South West 10.3
Powys Wales 10.4
Tower Hamlets London 10.5

Table source: Energy and Climate Change

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Table 1 shows that South Bucks was the local authority that had the highest average household energy consumption in 2011 (23.9MWh per household). In South Bucks, household energy consumption was more than three times that of the Isles of Scilly (6.6MWh per household), the local authority which had the lowest energy consumption. Eight of the 10 local authorities that had the highest average household energy consumption in 2011 were in the South East.

In terms of energy consumption, local authorities that had the lowest average household energy consumption tended to cover more rural areas than local authorities with the highest average household energy consumption. The Isles of Scilly was the local authority that had the lowest average household energy consumption in 2011 (6.6MWh per household). The Isles of Scilly does not receive piped gas which means households here did not have any gas consumption recorded in the data. As a result, the average household energy consumption using the data presented here appears lower than local authorities in which households receive piped gas. If energy consumption from alternative fuels were included in the data, the Isles of Scilly would be expected to record higher average household energy consumption. Two local authorities in London, Tower Hamlets and City of London, appear in the lowest average household energy consumption top 10, and this goes against the general pattern of low household energy consumption in more rural areas.

Local authorities in rural areas may be more likely to cover relatively isolated areas and so have a higher proportion of households without piped gas than those in less rural areas, and these households may use other sources of energy. As such, this could explain why eight of the top 10 local authorities with the lowest average household energy consumption were in Wales or the South West.
 

Distribution of Household Energy Consumption in Small Areas Within England and Wales

Data for household energy consumption are available at different geographical levels, including Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOA). MSOAs were designed to improve the reporting of small area statistics. They are geographical units built up from groups of Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs). Each local authority consists of between one MSOA (Isles of Scilly) and 131 MSOAs (Birmingham)1.

Map 1 shows the average household energy consumption for each of the 7,194 MSOAs in England and Wales in 2011.

Map 1: Average household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2011

Average household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

Notes:

  1. Boundaries are 2001 MSOA boundaries

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Map 1 shows that many of the MSOAs that had high average household energy consumption in 2011 were around London, the North West and parts of the midlands. There appear to be areas of relatively high average household energy consumption in a diagonal belt between the South East and the North West, whereas households in MSOAs across rural Wales and the South West tended to have lower average energy consumption. In London, households in MSOAs on the outskirts of the region tended to have higher average energy consumption than London overall, whereas households within Inner London MSOAs generally had lower average energy consumption than the region.

ONS produces Small Area Income Estimates for MSOAs in England and Wales, which, when viewed in conjunction with average household energy consumption, show that households in areas with higher average household energy consumption also tended to have higher levels of net income after taking account of housing costs. Households in areas where income is higher may therefore be more likely to consume more energy overall.

Figure 2 shows, for the English regions and Wales, the percentage of MSOAs that lie within each quintile of average household energy consumption for all MSOAs in England and Wales. For example, taking the whole of England and Wales, 20% of all MSOAs lie within the highest average household energy consumption quintile, 20% of MSOAs lie within the second highest quintile, and so on. By comparing the percentage of MSOAs in each quintile by area, it is possible to compare each region and Wales with England and Wales overall. This means that, if all areas contain 20% of MSOAs in each quintile, then average household energy consumption would be evenly distributed across the English regions and Wales. The chart shows the percentage of MSOAs in each of the five energy consumption quintiles, with the highest energy consumption quintile shown by the darkest colour and the percentage of MSOAs in the lowest quintile shown by the lightest colour.

Figure 2: Avergae household energy consumption quintile distribution for MSOAs, English regions and Wales, 2011

Figure 2: Avergae household energy consumption quintile distribution for MSOAs, English regions and Wales, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 2 shows that London had the largest percentage of MSOAs in the highest average household energy consumption quintile out of all English regions and Wales (26.7%). This continues recent trends and is similar to the North West, the next highest region with 25.9% of its MSOAs in the highest average household energy consumption quintile. The South West had the lowest proportion of MSOAs in the highest average household energy consumption quintile (2.9%) out of all regions and Wales, and it had the largest proportion of its MSOAs in the lowest average household energy consumption quintile (53.5%).

The relatively large variation in quintile distribution demonstrates that the regions of England, and Wales were disparate in terms of household energy consumption in 2011.

Notes for Distribution of Household Energy Consumption in Small Areas Within England and Wales

  1. Information about Super Output Areas is available from ONS Geography

Changes in Household Energy Consumption, 2005–11

Historic energy consumption statistics for households in England and Wales are available for 2005 to 2011. These can be used to examine recent trends in subnational household energy consumption.

Figure 3 shows average household energy consumption for 2005 to 2011 in England and Wales, the North West (the region that had the highest average energy consumption per household in 2005) and the South West (the region that had the lowest in 2005).

Figure 3: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2005–11

Figure 3: Average household energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2005–11
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 3 shows that average household energy consumption in England and Wales decreased from 20.7 megawatt hours (MWh) in 2005 to 16.1MWh in 2011. This is a decrease of 22.3% over the period. Within England and Wales, the North West had the highest average household energy consumption for every year in the period apart from 2011, but this decreased 26.5% from 22.9Wh per household in 2005 to 16.8Wh in 2011. This was the largest decrease, in absolute terms of all the English regions and Wales (6.1MWh). However, in percentage terms, the West Midlands had the largest decrease in average household energy consumption out of all the English regions and Wales (a fall of 26.9% from 22.5MWh in 2005 to 16.5MWh in 2011).

Over the seven year period, the South West had the lowest average household energy consumption for all years, and energy consumption in this region also declined, by 23.0% from 17.4MWh per household in 2005 to 13.4MWh per household in 2011.

Household energy consumption may have fallen in England and Wales in recent years for a number of reasons:

  • Household improvements such as better loft and cavity wall insulation1 have improved energy efficiency2 ,3.

  • Introduction of energy rating scales for properties4 and household appliances5, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases.

  • Improved efficiency of gas boilers and condensing boilers to supply properties with both hot water and central heating6.

  • Generally increasing public awareness of energy consumption and environmental issues7.

  • The price of gas and electricity in the UK overall increased in all years apart from 2010, between 2005 and 20118.

  • Changes in fuel types used by households such as increases in the use of log burners.

However, decreases in average household energy consumption in small areas within England and Wales did not occur uniformly between 2005 and 2011. Map 2 shows the percentage change in average household energy consumption for small areas (Middle Layer Super Output Areas) in England and Wales between 2005 and 20119.

Map 2: Change in average total household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2005–11

Change in average total household energy consumption, MSOAs, 2005–11
Source: Energy and Climate Change

Notes:

  1. Boundaries are 2001 MSOA boundaries

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Map 2 shows that the vast majority of MSOAs in England and Wales had a decrease in average household energy consumption from 2005 to 2011. In fact, only 27 MSOAs had an increase in average energy consumption over the period. Many MSOAs in the North West and West Midlands had large decreases in average household energy consumption over the period. Generally, average household energy consumption in areas of London decreased by a lower amount than England and Wales overall.

Within each of the English regions and Wales, some local authorities had large decreases in average household energy consumption. Table 2 shows, for each region and Wales, the local authority with the largest decrease in energy consumption between 2005 and 2011. The figures for England and Wales overall have also been included in the table for comparison.

Table 2: Largest change in average household energy consumption, local authorities, 2005–11

Local authority with largest change in region Region 2005 energy consumption (MWh) 2011 energy consumption (MWh) Percentage change (%)
Northumberland North East 23.7 15.7 -33.7
Cheshire East North West 26.3 17.9 -31.9
North East Lincolnshire Yorkshire and The Humber 21.4 16.3 -23.4
High Peak East Midlands 26.0 18.7 -28.0
Shropshire West Midlands 19.5 13.1 -32.8
Norwich East 18.3 14.0 -23.8
Tower Hamlets London 14.1 10.5 -25.1
Portsmouth South East 17.9 13.5 -25.0
Cornwall South West 14.4 10.3 -28.4
Newport Wales 21.3 15.9 -25.3
England and Wales overall 20.7 16.1 -22.3
 

Table source: Energy and Climate Change

Table notes:

  1. Figures rounded to one decimal place

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Table 2 shows that all of the English regions and Wales contain a local authority which had an average household energy consumption decrease larger than the overall England and Wales change from 2005 to 2011. The local authority with the largest average household energy consumption decrease was Northumberland in the North East (a decrease of 33.7%). In Northumberland there was a reduction of 8.0MWh. This reduction is greater than the reduction in average household energy consumption for England and Wales overall in 2011 (4.6MWh) although the local authority that had the largest reduction in absolute terms was Cheshire East (8.4MWh per household).

Notes for Changes in Household Energy Consumption, 2005–11

  1. According to data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the estimated proportion of homes with loft insulation in the UK increased from 44.0% in April 2008 to 59.6% in October 2011.
  2. For more information about the uptake of energy efficiency measures in homes, see the National Energy Efficiency Data-Framework summary of analysis.
  3. In 2003, the UK Government published the Energy White Paper, which set out its strategic vision for the future of energy policy.
  4. The European Parliament and Council’s Directive on the energy performance of buildings came into force in 2002.
  5. The European Parliament and Council’s Directive on the energy performance of household appliances was first introduced in 1992 and has been amended more recently.
  6. The European Parliament and Council’s Directive on the energy performance of boilers was first introduced in 1992.
  7. In 2006, The European Commission published the Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential, which cited “increased awareness and behavioural change” as an important driver of reducing energy consumption.
  8. According to data from the fuel component of the Retail Prices Index, the price of domestic gas increased from an index of 100 in 2005, to 201.4 in 2011. The price of domestic electricity increased from an index of 100 in 2005, to 166.1 in 2011.
  9. Information about Super Output Areas is available from ONS Geography.

Household energy consumption by energy type

Household energy consumption can be broken down by the proportion of gas and electricity consumed. Figure 4 shows the proportion of average household gas consumption as a percentage of all average household energy consumption1 by region in 2011.

Figure 4: Average household energy consumption by type, 2011

Figure 4: Average household energy consumption by type, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 4 shows that households in the North East consumed, on average, the most gas proportionally (79.1%) and households in the South West consumed the least (67.7%) in 2011. This could be the result of a smaller proportion of households in the South West receiving piped gas compared with other regions, and therefore using less gas proportionally.

Looking at the breakdown of household electricity consumption, Figure 5 shows the average household Economy 7 electricity consumption as a percentage of total average household electricity consumption2.

Figure 5: Average household Economy 7 electricity consumption as a percentage of total energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011

Figure 5: Average household Economy 7 electricity consumption as a percentage of total energy consumption, English regions and Wales, 2011
Source: Energy and Climate Change

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Figure 5 shows that households in the East of England had the highest average consumption of Economy 7 electricity as a percentage of all average household energy consumption (11.8%) and households in the East Midlands had the second highest average Economy 7 electricity consumption (11.4%). However, despite households in the East of England and the East Midlands having higher proportionate Economy 7 electricity consumption per household, this accounted for a relatively small amount of overall energy consumption, the majority of which was by gas consumption.

Households in the North East had the lowest consumption of Economy 7 electricity as a percentage of all household energy consumption (2.2%). Despite this, households in the North East had the second highest total average household energy consumption which further suggests that Economy 7 electricity consumption does not fully account for the patterns of total average household energy consumption.

Notes for Household energy consumption by energy type

  1. Includes ordinary domestic and Economy 7 electricity consumption.
  2. Economy 7 is an electricity tariff which offers a dual rate of charge for electricity, one for electricity used during the day and another, cheaper, rate for electricity used during seven hours of the night.

Summary

Statistics on household energy consumption in England and Wales for 2005 to 2011 are available from the Neighbourhood Statistics Service website for a variety of geographies. These data can be used to show that average household energy consumption in England and Wales has consistently decreased over this period. There are numerous reasons why household energy consumption may have decreased in recent years. These could include the effects of European Union directives leading to improvements in property insulation and energy efficiency, the introduction of energy ratings for properties and household appliances, and a general increase in public awareness on issues of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Energy consumption data show that average household energy consumption varied geographically. Within the English regions and Wales, regions in the North of England including the North East, North West and Yorkshire and The Humber had similar levels of average household energy consumption to each other, and households in these regions consumed more energy, on average, than households in England and Wales overall. Households in the West Midlands had the largest decrease in average household energy consumption of any English region and Wales over the period, at 26.9%.

Analysis of Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) revealed that households in 25.9% of MSOAs in Yorkshire and The Humber were in the highest average energy consumption quintile in 2011. This was considerably higher than the South West where households in 2.9% of MSOAs were in the highest quintile in 2011.

The household energy consumption data used in this article could also be used for further analysis. Such analysis could include, but is not limited to:

  • Examining the distribution of energy consumption at the Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA), and how this has changed over time.

  • Assessing the geographical variation in energy consumption in terms of the rural-urban classification of areas.

  • Linking energy consumption to measures of disposable household income, fuel poverty and Indices of Multiple Deprivation.

  • Exploring the relationship between 2011 Census data on housing stock and household energy consumption. 

Background notes

  1. Measuring energy consumption:

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change produces energy consumption data that shows the total gas, ordinary electricity and Economy 7 electricity consumption in each area. To conduct analysis of energy consumption at the household level, a proxy measure of mean total fuel consumption per household, for a given year in a given area, was calculated as follows:

    Calculating mean household energy consumption

    Calculating mean household energy consumption

    How to calculate mean total household energy consumption

    Notes:

    1. Where:

      • C = Mean total household energy consumption for region r during year y

      • G = Total household gas consumption in area a for year y

      • O = Total household ordinary electricity consumption in area a for year y

      • E = Total household Economy 7 electricity consumption in area a for year y

      • M = Number of ordinary domestic electricity meters in area a for year y

      • N = Number of Economy 7 electricity meters in area a for year y

    The number of domestic electricity meters has been used as a proxy for the number of households in this article. In reality though, the two cannot be used interchangeably because electricity meters in an area will generally be an overestimate of the number of households (more so in some areas than in others). For example, in 2011 the total number of electricity meters was 24.5 million which is greater than the estimated number of households according to the 2011 Census, at 24.4 million. This difference is for a number of reasons:

    • The total number of electricity meters includes both ordinary and Economy 7 electricity meters. Households with an Economy 7 electricity meter also have an ordinary electricity meter.

    • Some households can have more than one electricity meter associated with their property and therefore the number of electricity meters used may be an overestimate of the true number of households. This is particularly an issue with flats, with some supplies for communal areas such as lobbies, lifts and stairwells having a separate supply. For example, a block of six flats could have a total of seven electricity meters.

    • A small number of meters do not have sufficient information associated with them to be able to allocate them to a country and are referred to as ‘Unallocated’ meters. Therefore, country values for the number of gas and electricity meters may be an underestimate of the true number of meters.

    The data make no distinction for which tariff each meter point currently uses as the consumption figures relate to the meters at the time they were installed. For example, a user may have an Economy 7 meter installed and later decide to switch to a single rate tariff. This meter will still be recorded as an Economy 7 meter rather than an ordinary meter.

    Further information about measuring energy consumption is included in the subnational methodology and guidance notes on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website.

  2. Weather correction:

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has an agreement with all the electricity suppliers in Great Britain, whereby they agree to provide DECC with annualised consumption data for each Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN) or electricity meter. The consumption data for each MPAN is not weather corrected and represents consumption covering the 365 days commencing in late January each year. As well as the meter number and energy consumption. The electricity data do not come with address points. This is matched as a separate stage.

    For gas, transporters supply DECC with the Annualised Quantity (AQ) for each Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) or gas meter as well as addresses points data. An AQ is an estimate of annualised consumption using two meter readings at least six months apart and the closing reading is taken within the period 1 October to 30 September. The estimate is then weather corrected to reflect a 17 year trend. The MPRN data is then matched to a local authority and SOAs using the National Statistics Postcode Directory and the Postal Address File (PAF).

  3. Geographic coverage:

    Domestic energy consumption data are available for the English regions and Wales, local authorities and MSOAs as National Statistics and can be used in a time series analysis. LSOA data are also available and currently designated as Experimental Statistics.

    Revised estimates for 2011 electricity and gas consumption reflecting the new 2011 Census boundaries will be published alongside 2012 estimates at the end of March 2014. The revised estimates will also update data for a small number of LSOAs which appear in two different local authorities. This has occurred because geographical codes were allocated using exact postcode matching which led to a small number of LSOAs being assigned to multiple local authorities. The revised postcode matching method uses the National Statistics Postcode Lookup and means all properties within any LSOA are assigned to the same local authority. This change will have a small impact on estimates at the local authority and regional level.

    More information about the calculation of local authority level electricity consumption, local authority gas consumption, and MSOA and LSOA energy consumption are available from the DECC website.

    In processing this data for publication the Department for Energy and Climate Change has carried out checks to ensure the quality of the data.

  4. Differences between Neighbourhood Statistics data and DECC data

    The data available on the Neighbourhood Statistics website do not include unallocated consumption, where there is insufficient address information to match a meter with an area. It also does not include data for MSOAs that have been merged together for disclosure control reasons. Therefore, figures used in this article will be underestimates.

  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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