The thermodynamic implications of electricity end-use for heat and power

Stephen R. Allen, Geoffrey P. Hammond*, Russell C. McKenna

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Thermodynamic (energy and exergy) analysis can give rise to differing insights into the relative merits of the various end-uses of electricity for heat and power. The thermodynamic property known as 'exergy' reflects the ability to undertake 'useful work', but does not represent well heating processes within an energy sector. The end-use of electricity in the home, in the service sector, in industry, and the UK economy more generally has therefore been examined in order to estimate how much is used for heat and power, respectively. The share of electricity employed for heat and power applications has been studied, and alternative scenarios for the future development of the UK energy system were then used to evaluate the variation in heat/power share out to 2050. It was found that the proportion of electricity used to meet these end-use heat demands in the three sectors examined were likely to be quite high (1/450-60%), and that these shares are insensitive to the precise nature of the forward projections (forecasts, transition pathways or scenarios). The results represent a first indicative analysis of possible long-term trends in this heat/power share across the UK economy. Whilst the study is the first to consider this topic within such a timeframe, some of the necessary simplifying assumptions mean there are substantial uncertainties associated with the results. Where end-use heat demands are met by electricity, energy and exergy analysis should be performed in parallel in order to reflect the interrelated constraints imposed by the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. An understanding of the actual end-uses for electricity will also enable policy makers to take account of the implications of a greater end-use of electricity in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-525
Number of pages18
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy
Issue number6
Early online date20 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors are grateful for the interaction with other members of these various consortia made up of participants from many UK universities. Prof. Hammond presented early results of this work at the E.On UK Engineering Research
Centre at Ratcliffe on Soar in Nottinghamshire and to the Ofgem Sustainability Team in London, both in conjunction with the research programme of the Realising Transition Pathways Consortium. However, the views expressed here are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the collaborators or the policies of the funding bodies. The authors’ names are listed alphabetically.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research reported here was partially supported by a series of UK research grants awarded by the
UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), originally as part of the SUPERGEN ‘Highly Distributed Power Systems’ (HDPS) Consortium (grant
no. GR/T28836/01, for which Prof. Hammond was a coinvestigator). Dr Allen’s doctoral research was funded under this grant. It was renewed in 2009 as the ‘Highly Distributed Energy Futures’ (HiDEF) Consortium (grant no. EP/G031681/1, for which Prof. Hammond was again a co-investigator). During the preparation of this piece, Prof. Hammond jointly led a large consortium of nine university partners funded by the EPSRC entitled ‘Realising Transition Pathways: Whole Systems Analysis for a UK More Electric Low Carbon Energy Future’ [under Grant EP/K005316/1]. He also led a small consortium of three
university partners studying ‘Industrial Energy Use from a Bottom-up Perspective’ funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) [under the Phase 2 Grant NE/G007748/1]. Dr McKenna’s doctoral research was also funded via an
interdisciplinary studentship awarded by UKERC. Finally, Prof. Hammond continues to work in the field of industrial energy use and carbon emissions reduction supported by the EPSRC ‘End Use Energy Demand’ (EUED) Programme, as a Co-Director of the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) (grant no. EP/N022645/1); a national research centre made up of four university partners studying the potential for reducing industrial energy and
material use in supplying UK needs.


  • domestic sector
  • electricity end-uses
  • energy analysis
  • exergy
  • heat
  • industry
  • low carbon futures
  • power
  • services
  • Thermodynamics
  • UK economy


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