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Fuel and transport poverty in the UK’s energy transition (FAIR)

Our work on equity and justice examines the intersections between fuel and transport poverty, and low carbon energy transitions, in the United Kingdom.

Fuel poverty has been defined as the inability to secure materially- and socially-necessitated energy services, such as heating a home or using appliances. Transport poverty is the enforced lack of mobility services necessary for participation in society, resulting from the inaccessibility, unaffordability or unavailability of transport. Although fuel and transport poverty have until now typically been treated as distinct problems with their own causes and consequences, we argue that they are in fact deeply interlinked and potentially mutually reinforcing, and that it is vital to conduct research to better understand these linkages. This is pressingly needed in the context of the UK’s decarbonisation effort, so that for example vehicle electrification and ‘smart’ technologies do not create new injustices.

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To address this, we will:

Systematically examine who and where is presently vulnerable to fuel and transport poverty in the UK, to what extent, and why

We have a combined focus on the agency of actors (people) and the politics of space (places), acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between the two, and seeking to understand the systemic drivers of vulnerability across multiple spatial sites and scales. We will undertake a multi-disciplinary research project, which includes interviews with households, mapping and surveying of fuel and transport poverty prone regions, and interviews with experts to identify those who may be vulnerable in the UK’s low carbon transition.

Unveil how such vulnerabilities alter and shape the UK’s energy transition

We seek to identify how decarbonisation affects those who are ‘hard to reach’ and vulnerable, and whether new patterns of vulnerabilities and inequalities may emerge in the context of future decarbonisation. Such examples could for example include vulnerabilities created by disability, higher household energy bills as a result of decarbonisation, exclusion of disadvantaged households from cheap-to-run old cars, and neighbourhoods poorly connected to public transport. We aim to unveil such vulnerabilities, and provide solutions in regards to how to address them.

Propose how low carbon energy and transport transitions can be developed so that they promote a more just society

Little is known about how fuel and transport poverty, and their intersections, may be influenced by low carbon energy transitions and efforts to alter patterns of energy demand. Our proposed research thus moves existing fuel and transport poverty debates beyond the individual, to a nexus of system-wide implications of energy and transport use that include supply to demand. We will run policy workshops and develop policy models, to provide recommendations on how the UK’s Net Zero objectives can be achieved so that they do not only mitigate emissions, but also address poverty, inequality and exclusion.

Project team:

  • Dr Mari Martiskainen, University of Sussex (PI)
  • Professor Stefan Bouzarovski, University of Manchester
  • Dr Debbie Hopkins, University of Oxford
  • Dr Kirsten Jenkins, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Paul McKenzie, University of Ulster
  • Dr Neil Simcock, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Professor Benjamin Sovacool, University of Sussex

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