Research informs policies to reduce fuel poverty

Researchers investigate the drivers behind fuel poverty across Europe in order to inform national and international policy.

Energy prices in Eastern and Central Europe (ECE) have been rising for 20 years. Families have only one choice: to cut back on heating. But houses are draughty and inefficient and the climate chillingly cold – survival is miserable.

“The problem is further confounded by government with few states having adequate social safety mechanisms to protect poor citizens,” says Professor Stefan Bouzarovski, principle investigator of the Energy Vulnerability and Urban Transitions in Europe (EVALUATE) project.

EVALUATE is the first comprehensive investigation to explore the extent to which ECE citizens are vulnerable to fuel poverty – a condition in which they are unable to meet their basic energy needs.

“Fuel poverty is about so much more than income and energy efficiency,” explains Professor Bouzarovski. “It is the interplay between the environment, government policy and family circumstances.”

Professor Bouzarovski and colleagues from the School of Environment, Education and Development compare the dimensions of energy use in eight urban districts. The team interview representatives from government, utility companies, charities and community groups to build a complete picture of the issues that affect every day energy vulnerability. Qualitative findings are consolidated with large scale statistical surveys and evidence gathered from official legislative and policy documents.

“But our work is hands on too,” adds Professor Bouzarovski. “We work with fuel poor citizens to establish their daily energy use and the level of insulation and age of appliances in their homes. The research really does cover all angles.”

City authorities will use the results to target their efforts to reduce fuel poverty and improve the efficiency of urban houses. “We run workshops to share our findings with local stakeholders and communicate with advocacy groups and policy makers up to the European Union level,” says Professor Bouzarovski. “Future European policies may be based on our findings.”

EVALUATE also takes a wider look at the drivers of fuel poverty across the whole of Europe and even the world. “Is the research relevant to the UK?” asks Professor Bouzarovski. “Of course. Our broad findings will be relevant to any government or corporate body that wishes to address fuel poverty.”

He concludes, “Although it is rarely discussed fuel poverty is an urgent, global issue.”

Project fact file

Project name: Energy Vulnerability and Urban Transitions (EVALUATE)

Lead researcher: Professor Stefan Bouzarovski

Funding: European Research Council Starting Grant

Dates: March 2013 – March 2018

Partners: University of Gdansk; Charles University; Central European University; University of Skopje

School: School of Environment, Education and Development

Research centre: Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy (CURE)

Future European policies may be based on our findings.

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