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Sociology: Events


Understanding energy poverty: insights from secondary qualitative data analysis and critical policy analysis

Understanding energy poverty: insights from secondary qualitative data analysis and critical policy analysis
Speaker: Dr Lucie Middlemiss # University of Leeds
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Date and Time
21st Nov 2018 11:00 - 21st Nov 2018 12:00
6th Floor Staff Room CMB

In recent years I have led a number of research projects on energy or fuel poverty, a topic that brings together my combined interests in social and environmental problems. People who experience energy poverty cannot afford adequate energy services, and as such are likely to live in the cold, to have reduced mobility, or to be unable to access the internet at home, for instance. These are conditions of resource scarcity, and understanding how people cope and adapt in such conditions, as well as how they are understood in policy terms, has pertinence both to their current situation, and to anticipated resource shortages in the future.

In this seminar I will present insights from recent work. First, I present a series of projects drawing on a large body of secondary qualitative data on the lived experience of energy poverty, which explores research questions about social relations and energy poor households, and energy poor households’ experience of the market. Second, I will outline critical analyses of energy poverty policy in a number of nations (England, France, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain), considering how the energy poor are understood and governed differently.

Some key insights from this work include an emerging understanding of energy poverty as a multi-faceted and complex problem, which is not fully distinct from poverty tout court. People’s vulnerabilities and capabilities in relation to accessing energy services, typically understood in relation to demographic characteristics (old, disabled, very young), are actually structured by social relations, market relations and energy and welfare policy. There is room for agency for the energy poor, and some cope substantially better than others by engaging help from relatives or ‘playing’ the market. These insights could be better reflected in policy, although some nations do a better job than others.