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A Framework for Characterizing an Economy by its Energy and Socio-Economic Activities

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-113
Number of pages15
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Early online date21 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


Investigating the energy use of an economy in a resource-constrained world requires an understanding of the relationships of its economic, social, and energy-use elements. We introduce a novel whole-economy analytical framework which harmonises multiple national accounting procedures. The economic elements align with the international system of national accounts. In a modular fashion, our framework curates and maintains disparate accounts (economic stocks and flows, energy use, employment, transport) in parallel, but retains each of their unique measurement unit and accounting requirements. We present the UK as a case study to demonstrate how the data organisation and conditioning procedures are generic and will allow model development for other countries. The framework is capable of exploiting time-series ratios between different measurement units to give key functional relationships that vary gradually over time, are robust and thus useful for analysing national policy complexities such as decarbonisation, employment, investment and balance of payments. We use novel Sankey diagrams to visualise snapshots of the whole system. The framework is neither an exclusively economic, physical, nor social model. It upholds the integrity of each world-view through retaining their unique time-series datasets. As this framework is agnostic to the way in which a nation organises its economy, it has the potential to reduce tension between competing models and philosophies of economic development, environmental refurbishment, and climate change mitigation.

    Research areas

  • Bio-physical, Energy Systems Modelling, Fixed Capital, GDP, System of National Accounts.

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