Increase in household energy consumption due to ambient air pollution


In response to acute environmental stresses such as air pollution, households may resort to quick and convenient adaptation measures that increase energy use, amplifying the environmental impact and requiring additional adaptation. This cycle of energy-intensive adaptation has so far received little consideration by the broader energy community. Here, we analyse the response of Korean households to PM2.5 (ultrafine dust), based on real-time hourly smart meter data. We show that a 75 μg m–3 increase in PM2.5 concentration led to an 11.2% increase in electricity consumption, equivalent to the impact of a 3.5 °C increase in the average summer temperature. The magnitude of the energy-intensive adaptation correlated with households’ lifestyles and was higher on weekends and during daytime hours on both weekdays and weekends. The responses also reflected seasonal differences and had a U-shape relationship with temperature. We illustrate the importance of integrating the broader impacts of air pollution into policymaking to strike a proper balance between its mitigation and adaptation.

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Fig. 1: Spatial distribution of the sample households and average and standard deviations of PM2.5 concentration and daily temperature.
Fig. 2: Hourly energy response to PM2.5 pollution on weekdays and weekends.
Fig. 3: Moderation effect of temperature on energy response to PM2.5 pollution.
Fig. 4: Seasonal changes in hourly energy response to PM2.5 pollution.
Fig. 5: The feedback loop of energy demand, impact of climate change and air pollution, and resulting energy-intensive adaptation.

Data availability

The output data generated during our analyses are available at the following public repository: This repository also contains R-scripts to reproduce all tables and figures in this paper, as well as matched air quality and weather data for the individual anonymized households. Energy datasets generated and analysed during this study will be made available on a case-by-case basis upon request to the corresponding author, with input from the co-authors, subject to compliance with Encored’s Ethics and Personal Information Use Board restrictions.


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We thank S. Cha at Kweather for providing air quality data, J. Choe at Encored Technologies for providing smart meter energy data and E.-K. Jeong at KAIST for assisting in obtaining an earlier version of the data. This research was supported by the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning through the Graduate School of Green Growth at KAIST College of Business. J.E.’s research is also supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grants funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2017R1A2B4002170 and NRF-2019K1A3A1A78112573).

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J.E. conceptualized the study, led the design of the work and led the writing of the manuscript. J.E. and M.H reviewed the literature, performed the formal data analysis and led the interpretation of results. M.H. created the figures and contributed to writing the manuscript. J.L. and H.L. contributed to the collection and processing of data, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jiyong Eom.

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Supplementary Notes 1–4, Figs. 1–7, Tables 1–10 and refs 1–7.

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Eom, J., Hyun, M., Lee, J. et al. Increase in household energy consumption due to ambient air pollution. Nat Energy (2020).

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