A spatially explicit agent-based modelling approach for assessing residential heating technology uptake

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16277
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201675114
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Decarbonising heat provision in British homes is a major challenge which requires strategic policy decisions to be made in the 2020s, particularly with regards to energy infrastructure and heating technology incentives. Prevalent options for exploring national energy transitions have limited treatment of societal actors and socio-political dynamics, are poor at representing the co-evolving nature of society and technology and tend to overlook spatial and within-sector detail. In this study, an agent-based heating technology diffusion model is developed that considers the point at which existing owner-occupied households choose between either upgrading their existing heating system to the same technology with modern performance parameters or retrofitting a low-carbon heating option. A heterogenous set of agents are modelled with bounded rationality, and a high degree of spatial and within-sector detail is obtained while having national coverage. This allows both the impact of different incentives and regulations on heating technology investment decisions to be explored at local, regional and national scales, and for strategic last-mile energy infrastructure planning activities to capture projected heat system change. The model is calibrated and validated against actual heating technology uptake statistics. A Great Britain case study reveals that, from a public spending perspective, a capital grants based policy pathway is more cost-effective for reducing emissions and encouraging heat pump uptake than a policy pathway that consists of interest free loans, operational incentives and the removal of value added tax. However, many financially challenged households are likely to remain with the status quo regardless of the level of policy support considered here. Without policy support or changes in consumer attitudes towards low carbon heating, heat pumps are likely to remain a niche technology. The eventual need for heavy government intervention that goes beyond capital grants is likely to be unavoidable in achieving national decarbonisation ambitions.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Bell, Keith
  • Hawker, Graeme
Resource Type