Measuring community energy use

Measuring or auditing energy use before starting a project provides a key opportunity to prioritise activities in areas where the greatest environmental and financial benefits can be obtained. It also means that any savings resulting from project activities can be measured so you can shout about your achievements as a community – and as a group you might be able to use your success as a springboard for future projects.

There are a number of web-based tools available to support communities to measure energy use and prioritise actions, listed below. Note that all auditing and footprinting tools rely on a range of assumptions and calculation to come up with carbon emission and energy consumption results. It's therefore important to use the same version of a tool to compare different sites or groups and to compare results over time.

Measuring energy consumption of individuals and household

To measure the carbon emissions associated with an individual or household there are a range of calculators available, some including wider environmental issues. Some of the most recent options are:

•  Act on CO2 from Defra
•  WWF's environmental footprint
•  Chester University's Community Carbon Calculator, hosted by Ashton Hayes (Going Carbon Neutral)
•  The Centre for Sustainable Economy's international ecological footprint tool.

Measuring energy consumption in community spaces

Since community buildings are very varied in structure and usage it is rarely possible to produce average energy consumption values, however there are some tools available that can help to assess how much energy is consumed by community building. To get accurate results regarding energy consumption you may want to measure your overall consumption from meter readings.

This Energy Saving Trust calculator provides some ball park figures for energy consumption in different types of community building.

Measuring energy consumption for whole communities

Accurately measuring the total energy consumed by a community is likely to be very tricky, and may have limited value in terms of project objectives compared to time spent. However, taking stock of where energy is consumed in a community and to find out where most money and carbon can be saved it can be useful to help to prioritise activity. You may wish to break down activity into areas that are easier to measure or use national averages as estimates for your community.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change regularly produce statistics on UK emissions.

This Energy Saving Trust carbon footprint calculator allows you to estimate carbon emissions for your whole community; this can be made more accurate by adding local data.

This PlanLoCaL exercise allows you to estimate your community's energy use in a community workshop setting.

Measuring energy efficiency and energy use in homes

There are also a number of devices which can be used to measure energy use and energy efficiency. These can range from whole house electricity monitors, electricity monitors that sit between plugs for appliances, SMART meters (which will be rolled out across the country over the next few years) and coming, and other gadgets.