A cure-all for energy poverty? Thinking critically about energy advice

Authors:

Dr. Neil Simcock Prof. Stefan Bouzarovski

This paper is the product of multiple strands of work across several research projects and public engagement initiatives. It started from the Manchester Energy Advice Living Lab within the STEP IN project, which generated, provided and evaluated various energy assistance mechanisms to over 1000 people who were struggling with the payment of energy bills. The outcomes of this research were further elaborated in the FAIR project within CREDS, and refined within the newly-established EDRC. They are instructive in informing a distinct strand of work within EDRC’s Place Theme, exploring how energy advice provision in the UK can be streamlined and strengthened to support equitable and inclusive domestic retrofit.

In the paper, we critically evaluate whether and how energy advice can help alleviate energy poverty – also known as fuel poverty, this condition expresses the inability to secure needed levels of energy services in the home. Energy advice is now a tool that is increasingly used to support low-income households across the UK and beyond. In the paper, we review several different strands of qualitative evidence, to explore how household energy assistance interacts with different forms of energy-related hardship, the improvement of energy efficiency, as well as the delivery of support services to vulnerable groups and places.

 

While we argue in favour of increasing and streamlining the delivery of energy advice – particularly in terms of co-ordinating and integrating multiple forms of support – we also find that the amelioration of energy poverty also requires addressing deeper structural issues in the housing stock, as well as the governance of infrastructural systems and social welfare more broadly.

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