Nine out of ten Australians live in urban areas, where energy use is significantly impacted by variability in local weather and a changing climate.

Urban structures and the amount of waste heat generated from energy use affects urban weather conditions, creating a relationship between urban climate and energy demand. Modelling these interactions improves our understanding of environmental processes in cities and allows us to predict changes in local climate and energy consumption under different planning and climate change scenarios.

However, models of this type ( a physically based building energy model linked to a regional/global climate model) have not been developed that are focused on Australian conditions.

This is why the Urban Climate and Energy Model (UCLEM) has been developed in a collaborative project between the University of New South Wales and CSIRO. UCLEM is designed to accommodate Australian conditions. It also adds to the small number of models worldwide that can both dynamically predict energy consumption and are efficient enough to be used as a land surface in regional or global climate model simulations.

A remarkable aspect of UCLEM is that human behaviours are included in its calculations – an important consideration for energy use modelling.

To represent behavioural differences during the day and night hours, key aspects of a statistical model derived from electricity network data are integrated into the physically-based model. This integrated statistical/ physical approach improves the accuracy of energy use predictions while still retaining a representation of urban form – building density, heights, materials, street widths, vegetation, surface albedo etc.

This allows experimentation into how urban climate and energy use will change if we make interventions in the built environment – or if interventions are forced upon it such as climate change or extreme weather events.

UCLEM is available freely for researchers to use in studies. You can read a detailed blog post about the model by Mat Lipson on his blog, The Urbanist.