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University of York Launches Fuel Poverty Study

University of York

12:08pm 6th December 2013

Researchers from across Europe are developing a pilot survey of fuel poverty which will pave the way for better data across the EU.

Co-ordinated by the University of York, the pilot survey in eight EU member states aims to improve the way fuel poverty - where a household struggles to afford to keep the home warm or builds up fuel debts - is recorded and measured at both a national and European level.

So far, just seven of the 28 EU member states have measured fuel poverty at a national level. However, according to the researchers, the methods used have often been flawed and there is little consistency between different countries’ approaches, making comparisons between member states almost impossible.

The project, funded by Eaga Charitable Trust, involves a steering group of representatives of universities and research organisations from some of the eight pilot countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

Members of the steering committee include acknowledged experts in the field such as Christine Liddell, Professor of Psychology at the University of Ulster, and Stefan Bouzarovski, Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester.

Following completion of the project in April 2014, the researchers hope to carry out a full household survey across all 28 EU states.

The project is co-ordinated by Dr Carolyn Snell and Harriet Thomson from the University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, and will also involve consumer and advocacy groups.

Dr Snell said: “Across Europe there are lots of on-going conversations about different aspects of the energy market, including concerns over rising prices and the effect this is having on households.

 “However, at the European level there is no dedicated household survey of fuel or energy poverty, and an absence of standardised data concerning household fuel expenditure. This project aims to develop a survey that will address the identified gaps in data, and overcome a number of existing shortcomings in currently available pan-European data.”

The pilot survey will test questions which aim to gain a better understanding of how often and why a household is unable to heat the home adequately – is this an occasional problem or one they struggle with every day? Is the problem due to lack of insulation, a poor heating system or simply because people cannot afford to pay household bills?

Harriet Thomson said: “For policymakers to be able to efficiently target measures to different people’s needs, it is important to understand the underlying causes of fuel poverty. Researchers can only gain this knowledge through good data.

“Part of the project is to look at best practice and to develop toolkits to promote a better understanding in those EU member states where fuel poverty measurement is just beginning.”

The pilot survey is available online in English, French and German. To take part in the survey visit www.energyaffordability.eu

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