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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Abstract

Residential electricity consumption in the Commonwealth of Virginia has more than doubled in three decades, between 1980 and 2010. Per capita and per household consumption rates have grown faster than many other states including New York and California. The following dissertation applies systems dynamics methodology to explore the causes of growth in Virginia’s per capita and per household residential electricity consumption rates in relative contrast to New York and California over the past several decades. Major databases used in the study were accessed from the United States Energy Information Administration and the Census Bureau. Qualitative modelling applying system dynamics principles is used to understand the general dynamics that drive residential electricity consumption across U.S households. The extent to which these dynamics prevail in Virginia is then analyzed using the state’s historical data. Further comparative analysis with benchmark states of New York and California helps identify if those dynamics uniquely prevail in Virginia or are common across the benchmark states too. The study finds that a combination of economic and lifestyle factors among Virginia’s residents, compounded by a low-cost high-volume ‘business as usual’ strategy by the state’s power utility sector with negligible investments in demand side management efforts, have worked relentlessly to cause per capita and per household residential electricity consumption rates to rise in the Commonwealth during the three decades. The results of this study are intended to support in better management of residential electricity consumption rates in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Public educational programs, Government tax credits and rebates, and stronger utility demands side management are key recommendations in the interest of addressing the issue. A successful future reduction in consumption rates will help lessen pressures on the state’s economy as well as the environment.

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