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Participatory Session: Understanding and addressing energy poverty via multidimensional research and policy

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Austerity-driven, unsustainable degrowth has resulted in a surge of energy poverty in EU and beyond. Even though Europe is one of the most developed parts of the world, many people face difficulties in covering their basic energy needs (EPEE, 2009; Wand, 2013; Pye and Dobbins, 2016). A situation where a household is unable to access a materially and socially–necessitated level of energy services in the home is called energy poverty (Buzar, 2007). Energy poverty needs to be addressed to alleviate the negative health and social impacts it has on people who live in energy poverty (Boardman, 1991).

Yet tensions are foreseen between energy poverty alleviation and degrowth. Addressing energy poverty can result in more energy use and increased material use (Boardman, 2009), which is in opposition with the need to reduce energy use and degrow the metabolism of our societies (Kallis, 2011). A similar tension occurs between the need to internalise external costs of energy production, which causes rise in energy prices, and the need to provide affordable energy (Bouzarovski, 2014). Most of the evidence shows that energy poverty is very likely to worsen in the future, following the increase of energy prices (Boardman, 2009). Austerity-driven degrowth of economies contributes to the increase of energy poverty (Tirado Herrero and Jiménez, 2016; Lambie-Mumford et al., 2016), yet it is a question whether sustainable degrowth would contribute to decreasing it. Last, but not the least, it is a question whether growth can reduce energy poverty or is energy poverty simply a negative side-effect of the current economic set up and further growth cannot do much for the ones affected by energy poverty.

These tensions represent the points of departure for the proposed participative session. The purpose of this participative session is to open a platform for dialogues on how to address the described tensions. By opening a platform, it will not only contribute to further exploration of the links and potential tensions of energy poverty and degrowth, but also contribute to EU-wide discussions on energy poverty that are currently running under two pan-European initiatives, the European Energy Poverty Observatory [1] and COST action European Energy Poverty: Agenda Co-Creation and Knowledge Innovation [2].

The participative session will consist of two parts. In the first part (roughly 20 minutes), the session conveners will outline the key issues and challenges of the energy poverty – degrowth axis, as specified above. In the second part the participants will divide themselves into 2 – 5 working groups. The number of working groups will depend on the overall number of participants (each smaller group should have from 3 up to 8 participants).

The groups will, with the support of session conveners, discuss the following key questions (listed in order of priority, so that each group can work on one question/issue):
1. How to achieve policy synergies between energy poverty orientated policies and other pressing social challenges, such as climate change mitigation, transitions to low carbon futures, housing affordability, welfare provision, public health, utility regulation and the reduction of poverty and social exclusion?
2. How can energy poverty be understood and addressed via multidimensional research? What are the best ways to energy poverty knowledge co-creation and co-producing emancipatory research and practice? What can be new ways of engaging key stakeholders?
3. Can the power of citizen-led initiatives for community-level energy service provision, municipal and civic ownership of energy systems, decentralised energy technologies and practices, as well as informal and formal support networks support addressing energy poverty?
4. How to address the tension between the need to increase energy use to address energy poverty and the need to degrow energy use generally? How about the tension between the need to internalise external costs of energy production and the need to provide affordable energy?
5. Can growth reduce energy poverty or is energy poverty simply a negative side-effect of the current economic set up and further growth cannot do much for the ones affected by energy poverty?

The group discussion will last some 30-45 minutes (if there are more groups, then shorter discussion time will be given and vice versa), after which the discussions would be wrapped up by the exchange of key outputs of the discussion. The discussion results will be recorded into pre-prepared template to ensure that the discussion is properly captured. The results of the talks will be collected by the session conveners to feed into processes of the above-mentioned Energy poverty observatory and COST action.



Boardman, B. 1991. Fuel poverty: from cold homes to affordable warmth. Belhaven Press, London.

Boardman, B. 2009. Fixing fuel poverty. Challenges and Solutions. Earthscan, London.

Buzar, S. 2007. Energy Poverty in Eastern Europe: Hidden Geographies of Deprivation. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., Hampshire.

Bouzarovski, S. 2014. Energy poverty in the European Union: landscapes of vulnerability. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment 3 (3): 276–289.

EPEE - European Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Project. 2009. Tackling Fuel Poverty in Europe: Recommendations Guide for Policy Makers. Online: [cited October 2014].

Kallis, G. 2011. In defence of degrowth. Ecological Economics 70 (5): 873–880.

Lambie-Mumford, H., Snell, C. and Hunt, T. 2016. ‘Heating or eating’ and the impact of austerity. SPERI British Political Economy Brief No. 19. Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences.

Pye, S. and Dobbins, A. 2015. Energy poverty and vulnerable consumers in the energy sector across the EU: analysis of policies and measures. Policy report. Online: [cited August 2016].

Tirado Herrero, S. and Jiménez, L. 2016. Energy poverty, crisis and austerity in Spain. People, place and policy 10 (1): 42-56.

Wand, C.R. 2013. % of households unable to keep their home adequately warm. Online: [cited August 2017].


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:00
Duration: 01:30
Room: ABF (206)
Track: Climate Change, Climate and Environmental Justice



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