Lessons from Europe on fuel poverty: sharing knowledge globally

by Harriet Thomson

Fuel poverty, which is more commonly referred to as energy poverty outside the UK, occurs when a household experiences inadequate levels of essential energy services (such as heating, cooling, and lighting). Fuel poverty is a distinct form of poverty associated with a range of adverse consequences for people’s health and wellbeing – with respiratory and cardiac illnesses, and mental health, exacerbated due to low temperatures and stress associated with unaffordable energy bills. It is estimated that almost 60 million households in the EU are experiencing fuel poverty.

Whilst fuel poverty is gaining increasing recognition across Europe, and has been identified as a policy priority by several key institutions – including the European Commission and European Parliament – just a few years ago there were substantial gaps in knowledge about the issue. Continue reading

Investing in energy

Jim Watson 150Jim Watson is Director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

In this piece he asks what the government can do to encourage further investment in innovation to make the UK’s energy system more flexible.

The UK energy system is changing fast. Coal, the fuel that powered the industrial revolution, is in rapid decline and low carbon technologies now generate over 50% of the UK’s power. Energy demand has fallen since the mid 2000s, driven by energy efficiency improvements and economic restructuring. Continue reading

The nuclear option

andy-stirlingAndy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex and co-director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), argues that social science can play a vital role in unpicking policy arguments to challenge the real reasons behind nuclear energy decisions

Social science can play many useful roles in controversies over science and technology. The tricky bit is that what counts as ‘useful’ in any policy debate will often depend on the perspective. After all, it is inherent to democracy that different values and interests yield contrasting conclusions. This is especially so in controversies like the current one bubbling away around intense UK Government commitments to nuclear power. Continue reading