Conceptualizing Household Energy Metabolism: A Methodological Contribution

Urban metabolism assessments enable the quantification of resource flows, which is useful for finding intervention points for sustainability. At a household level, energy metabolism assessments can reveal intervention points to reshape household energy consumption and inform decision-makers about a more sustainable urban energy system. However, a gap in the current urban metabolism research reveals that existing household energy consumption studies focus on outflows in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, and have been mostly undertaken at the city or national level. To address this gap, this study developed a method to assess household energy metabolism focusing on direct energy inflows in the form of carriers, and through-flows in the form of services, to identify intervention points for sustainability. Then, this method was applied to assess the energy metabolism of different households in Cape Town, South Africa, as categorized by income groups. The study argued that the developed method is useful for undertaking bottom–up household energy metabolic assessments in both formal and informal city settings in which more than one energy carrier is used. In cities where only national or city-level data exists, it provides a method for understanding how different households consume different energy carriers differently.

Associated space

Cape Town