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Welfare, Employment and Energy Demand

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January 2015 to January 2019

PI: Catherine Butler

Welfare, Employment and Energy Demand: Examining Tensions and Opportunities in the Delivery of Demand Reduction

Funded by: EPSRC


HEI): Dr Karen Parkhill (University of York), Dr Karen Bickerstaff (University of Exeter), Professor Gordon Walker (Lancaster University)

Partners and stakeholders:

Centre for Sustainable Energy, National Energy Action, DBEIS, DWP, Joseph Rowntree Foundation



Research has highlighted the ways that government policies, strategies, and processes shape everyday practices with implications for energy demand issues. Given this, there remains an important research challenge to look beyond energy policy per se and think more expansively about the role of policy and governance processes in constituting and addressing energy demand issues (Royston et al. 2018). This research makes a major contribution to knowledge on energy governance by examining in-depth a key area of (invisible energy) policy generally perceived as unconnected to energy issues – welfare and employment.


Through the application of established qualitative research methods the project has advanced understanding of how welfare and employment policy has major implications for energy demand issues (e.g. see Butler et al. 2018). The focus of the project has been on the UK Department for Work and Pensions’ policies, as the key government department with responsibilities in this area, but it has also looked historically at the role of welfare policy in shaping the contemporary context for energy policy (e.g. in relation to housing). The research has been undertaken through three phases of empirical research involving; 1) interviews with national stakeholders in both energy and welfare policy, and those working at the intersection, for example, on issues of fuel poverty; 2) case studies in two cities (Bristol in SW England and York in NE England), involving interviews with local stakeholders and people directly impacted by welfare and employment policies; 3) discussion workshops with local and national stakeholders. Using these methods, the research has built understanding of the diverse and subtle ways in which different policies impact energy demand issues, creating new avenues for thinking about approaches to energy governance.

A stakeholder report on the main findings from the research is planned for release in summer 2019. An article from the project is currently available in the journal Energy Research and Social Science.

Butler, C. Parkhill, K. and Luzecka, P. 2018. Rethinking energy demand governance: Exploring impact beyond ‘energy’ policy, Energy Research and Social Science, 36: 70-78

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