EVALUATE researcher awarded prestigious impact prize for early career research

Dr Harriet Thomson was awarded the Outstanding Early Career Impact Prize and £10,000 at the Economic and Social Research Council’s Celebrating Impact Awards during a ceremony held at Central Hall, London, on 21st June 2017. The award was made in recognition of Harriet’s ground-breaking ESRC-funded PhD research and networking activities, which focused attention on the 54 million EU households who are struggling to achieve adequate levels of energy services in their homes.

When Harriet started her doctoral studies in 2011, there were no recent figures on the extent and nature of energy poverty in Europe, with the last comprehensive analysis conducted by Healy and Clinch (2002) using data from 1994-1997 for just fourteen EU countries. In addition, beyond work by Bouzarovski et al. in 2012, there were critical gaps in knowledge about the development and framing of European policies to address the problem. To address these gaps, Harriet undertook a multi-methods investigation, comprising qualitative analysis of policy documents spanning 2001 to 2014, and quantitative analysis of a new household-level index based on EU-SILC micro data.

Among the key impacts that Harriet achieved during her PhD and subsequently while working on the EVALUATE project are:

  • Her index of energy poverty across EU Member States made evidence-based insights more accessible to decision-makers, and provided new information on its drivers in different countries.
  • Her highlighting of substantial gaps in knowledge about EU energy poverty helped change how energy poverty is addressed in the EU. Previously opposed to tackling the issue, since 2014 the EU has invested more than €1 million in defining and measuring the problem.
  • She established the EU Fuel Poverty Network, now a leading online platform for information about fuel poverty, and a resource used by MEPs.
  • Harriet has influenced the development and framing of new EU policy approaches to energy poverty and advised European Commission-funded studies on energy poverty indicators. Her research featured in a 2016 UK House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, and an EU policy handbook, published by the Greens/European Free Alliance Group in the European Parliament.
  • As part of EVALUATE policy engagement, she advised the Socialist and Democrats Group in the European Parliament on its 2016 Energy Poverty Manifesto, leading to a new European Parliament resolution.
  • Harriet also developed a set of recommendations for modifying existing survey infrastructure to bring about more useable secondary statistical data. These recommendations have fed into work by Eurostat, and are informing applications for new surveys.
  • She led a successful pan-European consortium bid (with Professor Stefan Bouzarovski) to run the European Energy Poverty Observatory, which aims to transform knowledge of energy poverty in Europe, and measures to combat it.

In total 6 awards were made by the ESRC for: Early Career Impact; International Impact; Impact in Business and Enterprise; Impact in Public Policy; Impact in Society; and the Impact Champion. An overview of all winners and finalists can be found here: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/research/celebrating-impact-prize/impact-prize-winners-2017/

Impact Prize winners. Photo credit: ESRC, 2017


References and further reading:

Bouzarovski, S., Petrova, S., and Sarlamanov, R. (2012). Energy poverty policies in the EU: A critical perspective. Energy Policy, 49: 76–82.

Healy, J.D., and Clinch, P. (2002). Fuel poverty in Europe: A cross-country analysis using a new composite measure. Dublin: Environmental Studies Research Series, University College Dublin.

Thomson, H., Bouzarovski, S., Snell, C. (2017) Rethinking the measurement of energy poverty in Europe: a critical analysis of indicators and data. Indoor and Built Environment.

Thomson, H., and Snell, C. (2016) Definitions and indicators of energy poverty across the EU. In K. Csiba (eds.) Energy Poverty Handbook. Brussels: The Greens / European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.

Thomson, H., Snell, C. and Liddell, C. (2016) Fuel poverty in the European Union: a concept in need of definition? People, Place and Policy special issue international perspectives on fuel poverty, 10: 5-24.

Thomson, H. and Snell, C. (2013) Quantifying the prevalence of fuel poverty across the European Union. Energy Policy, 52: 563-572.