A short report from Brazil: The relevance of energy issues to the recent protests

By Saska Petrova

When we planned last month’s research visit to Brazil, Stefan Bouzarovski and I did not intend for it to take place during some of the largest protests in the country’s recent history. Yet witnessing the events in close proximity was a major eye opener: Many of the demonstrators’ grievances were closely related to the numerous energy-transition related challenges faced by this nation.

The main purpose of our trip was to meet academics from Brazilian universities so as to explore the possibilities for collaborative projects in the energy domain. Our contacts included scholars from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (FURJ) and the Federal University of Paraná. We were inspired by the intensifying wave of collaboration between British and Brazilian academic institutions that has unfolded during the past few years.

Brazil is an emergent energy superpower – in production and consumption terms alike – which is likely to hold a pivotal role in the world’s future energy flows. The country has the largest electricity sector in South America, and it is the third largest energy consumer in the Western Hemisphere, just behind the United States and Canada. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Brazil’s total primary energy consumption has increased almost by a third in the last decade (39 percent of this figure originates from oil and other liquids including ethanol, followed by hydroelectricity at 29 per cent). It is worth noting that most of the oil is produced in the already-wealthy southeastern states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo. Plans to distribute oil royalties more equally between all 26 Brazilian states have been highly contentious, and have generated numerous public protests and heated debates.

The victory of the current president Dilma Rousseff was due, in part, to her perceived competence as an energy minister from 2003 to 2005. In response to last month’s protests, she helped usher a bill through Congress allowing for oil royalties to be fully dedicated to education and healthcare.
The victory of the current president Dilma Rousseff was due, in part, to her perceived competence as an energy minister from 2003 to 2005. In response to last month’s protests, she helped usher a bill through Congress allowing for oil royalties to be fully dedicated to education and healthcare.

Despite the liberalisation of the oil sector in the late 1990s, the state-controlled Petrobras is still the dominant player in the oil sector. Brazil also has one of the least fossil-fuel intensive electricity sectors in the world, with 85 per cent of its total electricity production being generated by hydropower. Demonstrations against the further privatisation of oil and hydropower preceded last month’s protests, and in some ways helped spark the wave of unrest witnessed throughout the country.

The lion’s share (40 per cent or so) of energy consumption in the country is accounted for by households. Intensifying urbanisation dynamics are leading to the continued growth of this figure, and it seems that much of the increase is concentrated in informal settlements. During our trip, it became evident that energy consumption issues in favelas pose significant social, economic, engineering challenges. Also, the difficulties arising from the social exclusion faced by the residents of such areas – much of which have to do with access to infrastructural services – were at the heart of some of the violence seen last month. Professor Suzana Gueiros from FURJ is preparing a more detailed item for this blog about energy consumption issues in favelas.

A favela in South Rio de Janeiro

(De)politicising energy vulnerability at the European scale

By Stefan Bouzarovski

Continuing along the politicisation theme that Sergio started in his previous post, readers of this blog may find of interest my recent presentation at the 8th International Interpretive Policy Analysis Conference in Vienna. I participated, via an online link, in the panel on Arena Shifting and Urban/Regional Politics: Depoliticization, Conflict and Democracy.

The presentation explored the different ways in which energy poverty and vulnerability policies are being subject to forces which either attempt to move these issues into the political arena, or relegate them to the domain of experts and technocrats.

These forces operate at different scales and sites of governance. For example: While energy poverty entered the vocabulary of EU institutions through a highly politically-driven process (we wrote about this with Saska Petrova and Robert Sarlamanov in an article on EU energy poverty policy for the special issue of the journal Energy Policy edited by Brenda Boardman and Christine Liddell), recent years have seen the use of the ‘vulnerability’ agenda as a tool of building technocratic consensus (despite the fact that the underlying conditions that create vulnerability are deeply rooted in political dynamics). Similarly, energy efficiency action plans have been used as a depoliticising tool at the urban and regional scale, even though political protests over high utility bills are underway across Europe.

Energy poverty in Spain: the politicisation of energy vulnerability at an early stage

By Sergio Tirado Herrero

Research on energy poverty in the EU (Healy, 2004) found out substantially high percentages of population unable to heat their home adequately in Southern Member States (Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain) during 1990s. These data may reflect cross-country cultural differences in perceptions about thermal comfort and the affordability of domestic energy, but also be a consequence of the poor thermal performance of homes built in regions with mild climates.

In Spain, some early attempts to measure the incidence of energy poverty were produced in the framework of the European fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency (EPEE) project. However, it was not until last year when the first proper assessment of the extent and characteristics of energy poverty was undertaken. The Asociación de Ciencias Ambientales (Environmental Sciences Association) presented in March 2012 a study that estimated energy poverty rates following the expenditure-based and consensual or self-reported measuring approaches. The results, calculated on data from the Spanish Household Budget Survey (HBS) and the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC), indicate that approximately 10% of Spanish households (equivalent to 4 million people) were in energy poverty as of 2010. The evolution of both indicators shows a sustained increase in energy poverty rates since the onset of the global financial crisis (2007-2008). Note that the recorded change in energy poverty rates seems to be unrelated to the severity of the winter as measured by the number of annual heating degree-days.

 Energy poverty rates Expenditure-based and consensual or self-reported energy poverty rates in Spain 2004-2010 (% households in energy poverty). Source: Tirado Herrero et al. (2012)

The study also assessed the socio-economic characteristics of the Spanish energy poor. Disaggregated results indicate on the one hand that households with unemployed working-age members are twice as likely to be in energy poverty; on the other hand, they evidence that energy poverty is growing fast in unemployed households – see Figure 2. Given the double-digit increase in Spanish unemployment figures (from 7.8% in July 2007 to 26.9% in May  2013, the highest rate of the EU according to Eurostat), it is foreseeable that, compared to 2010,  a larger fraction of the Spanish population is now in energy poverty.

Expenditure EP rates unemployed

Expenditure-based energy poverty rates in Spain 2004-2010, disaggregated by main income source of the household (% households in energy poverty). Source: Tirado Herrero et al. (2012)

 The significance of domestic energy deprivation issues is growing in parallel with the ongoing deterioration of the Spanish economy, which is progressively worsening the purchasing power and living conditions of households at the bottom but also in the middle class. However, Spanish legislators still show a basic, imprecise understanding of energy poverty and vulnerability issues. This is evidenced by the uneven responses provided by the main political parties in a questionnaire on socio-environmental themes sent by the Asociación de Ciencias Ambientales prior to the 2011 parliamentary elections.

In late weeks, some symptoms suggesting that energy poverty may be finding its way into the agenda of mainstream political parties. Last June 25th, the main opposition party, centre-left PSOE, presented a motion relative to the fight against energy poverty which advocated for a “full and adequate transposition” of EC Directives 2009/72/CE and 2009/73/CE concerning the common rules for the internal market in electricity and natural gas, and proposing the approval, in three months’ time, of a fuel poverty strategy with a dedicated public budget line. The motion also proposes prioritising the thermal retrofits of homes, incorporating energy poverty criteria for the revision of electricity tariff-setting system and the extension of the bono social – a protected electricity tariff for vulnerable households.

In parallel, a small coalition of leftist parties (Izquierda Plural) presented on June 26th a proposal for an overall reformulation of Spain’s energy policy and regulatory framework. This motion advocated for a number of substantial changes, including a moratorium on fracking and unconventional gas exploration, a more stringent allocation of carbon emission permits, a more decisive support of renewable energy generation, legislative support for renewable self-generation through net metering, etc. It explicitly addressed energy poverty by requesting “social prices” for electricity, natural gas and bottled gas and an audit of the regulated electricity tariff-setting system. The latter is often blamed by consumer protection and civil society organisations for Spain’s high domestic electricity prices (as compared to the EU average) and for the growing 30 billion Euro deficit that Spanish consumers owe to utility companies as of 2013.

More ambitious and comprehensive than PSOE’s, the motion presented by the leftist coalition Izquierda Plural was rejected last July 3rd as it only received the support of 23 Members of the Spanish Parliament. Just one MP of PSOE voted in favour. The remaining 109 PSOE MPs abstained on supporting the motion of Izquierda Plural even though its purpose was similar to their own. The latter is not likely to go through either given that the 186 MPs of the ruling party (centre-right Partido Popular) are expected to vote against PSOE’s motion too.

This is the first time that energy (or fuel) poverty is discussed as such in the Spanish parliament. The two motions described perhaps inaugurate a time in which energy poverty will enter the institusionalised political debate in Spain, probably within the broader framework of the discussions around energy, social and climate policies. That energy poverty becomes a politicised issue opens up the opportunity to research how energy vulnerability becomes an electorally salient issue and interacts with ideologies and political discourses.

Pit No. 8 – a documentary film on energy vulnerability and failed transition in Ukraine

By Sergio Tirado Herrero

When Marianna Kaat, Estonian filmmaker and director Pit No. 8, was ready to start filming his documentary movie about illegal coal mining in the Ukrainian Donetsk/Donbass area, the person she had chosen to be the main character of the film (a retired man fed up with the bribes demanded by the local militia and fighting to have his own pit legalized by Ukrainian authorities) had just died from cancer. She was nevertheless sure to find the story they were looking for and set off to the field with her crew.  They were shooting in a small rural settlement near Donetsk when they met by chance Yura Sikanov, a teenager working in illegal coal pits and earning a living for himself, his two sisters, and even for his alcoholic mother and stepfather. In the first scenes of the documentary, Yura and his little sister show many of the illegal coal pits (some of them right under people’s houses and backyards) of the village where they live.

The grandchild of the powerful director of the soviet Khinmash military equipment plant, Yura almost immediately became the central character of the documentary. At the time when the film was shot, he and his two sisters (Ulyana and Julia) were living completely on their own in a little country house let to them by a neighbour. The film tells the life story of the three Sikanov siblings for more than a year, in which Yura works in different coal pits and mines, sometimes in his own with an old friend (Dima), sometimes in some else’s, while to struggling to keep up with school and his role of head of the household. He has the aspiration to become a chef  and is accepted in a vocational school to get a professional qualification as baker and cook; but he is later dismissed because his work in the pits forces him to miss many lessons. The whole story is located in Snezhin, a small rural settlement in the Donbass area, the centre of the Ukraine’s coal area in and birthplace Ukraine’s president Vicktor Yanukovich.

As stated by the jury who awarded the feature prize of the 11th International Documentary Film Festival “Flahertiana” to Marianna Kaat, “Pit No. 8 is an inspiring portrait of Ukraine, a country in painful transition, where there are no rules”.  This sense of disorientation and defeat is perhaps best represented in a scene in which an old Ukrainian lady, lost in the forest while picking mushrooms in a misty autumn day, ends up meeting the crew filming a coal mine and complaining to them with a somehow miserable “I can’t find the way”.


Julia, Yura and Ulyana – the Sikanov siblings. Source: http://www.osaarchivum.org/

But Pit No. 8 is also a vivid account of the struggles and resourcefulness of people from former soviet societies to make ends meet, of the impact of the global financial crisis in the local economies of Eastern Europe, and of the role of men and women in a post-socialist miners’ community. More importantly for our research in the EVALUATE project, the film manages to successfully portray energy vulnerability in connection with wider income deprivation, dysfunctional families, frustrated transition and systemic political and institutional failure in Eastern Europe. Though not physically present in the film, characters refer to “big powers” (i.e., police officers, a mining commission, politicians, the global crisis, etc.) which are well beyond the sphere of influence of the community but set the conditions under which energy vulnerability is experienced at a local scale in Snezhin.

The Donbass coal basin case probably is a striking example of this coping strategy (illegal or informal coal mining), but not a unique case. In Hungary, photographer Ákos Stiller has documented such practices in the small settlement of Farkaslyuk, near the city of Ózd, a similarly deprived post-industrial landscape as the one portrayed in Pit No. 8. In Poland, another of the four countries of the EVALUATE project, Ewa Charkiewicz (Women Network) has reported about similar issues in areas of the country where coal beds lie at a short depth below the surface.

When renovations have a hidden agenda: renoviction

By Sergio Tirado Herrero

Incentives split between owners and tenants are often mentioned as a significant barrier to energy efficiency investments and behaviour in the housing rental sector. As discussed by Gillingham et al. (2012), tenants have little incentives to save energy at home if they do not pay for the amount consumed; and owners have few incentives to invest in energy efficiency measures that will primarily benefit tenants unless they are allowed to raise the rental price of the properties they own. However, changing or creating new rules to avoid the split incentives barrier may trigger strategic responses from landlords – such as the forced eviction of tenants following an imposed refurbishment building. This phenomenon has been labeled as renoviction (renovation + eviction), as I heard for a first time a couple of weeks ago in the RESPONDER sustainable housing event I attended in Barcelona.

As the story goes, this new word was apparently coined by Canadian soprano and activist Heather Pawsey. A resident of Seafield Apartments in Vancouver (British Columbia), since 2008 she and other members of her community have been resisting the plans of the company owning their rental apartment building to renovate the estate and drastically increase rental prices (up to 73%) afterwards. Since tenants are forced to leave their homes for the renovation to take place, they would be effectively evicted as a consequence of the renovation unless they agree to the new, higher rent. Apparently, the owners of the building would be taking advantage of a local regulation, the provincial Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), which allows them “to evict tenants by performing renovations that supposedly require vacant suites, in order to evade controls on annual rent increases”. The story of the Seafield Apartments, which is still ongoing, is documented in detail and has become a flagship example of communities resisting renoviction.

illegally-evicted-at-the-seafieldA community resisting. Source: http://seafieldapartments.com/

The case of Seafield Apartments illustrates how apparently neutral solutions to supposedly technical challenges (such as the split incentives barrier) may have unforeseen negative consequences, with conflicts expected when actors with largely different interests interact on an uneven playing field. We will be looking into renoviction and other cases in which households resist measures theoretically intended to improve the quality of their homes.

New project: Energy vulnerability and alternative economies in Northern Greece

The 15th of July will see the start of the EVENT project (Energy vulnerability and alternative economies in Northern Greece), which aims to explore how experiences of domestic energy deprivation in this country are underpinned by the social and spatial infrastructures of everyday life. The endeavour is funded by the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers and is co-ordinated by Dr Saska Petrova at the University of Manchester with the assistance of Dr Alexandra Prodromidou from Panteion University.

The core of the project consists of an ethnographic study of energy practices among 30 households in the inner city of Thessaloniki – the country’s second largest urban area. We will gather information about the householdsʼ domestic energy, economic, housing and social conditions, as well as their housing careers and personal biographies. At the same time, direct energy measurements will be used to collect data about the energy efficiency of the heating system, appliance stock, and the loss of useful energy through the built fabric of the surveyed homes.

The institutional background of fuel poverty will be scrutinised with the aid of semi-structured interviews with policy-makers in the energy, social welfare and housing sectors, located in Athens and Thessaloniki.

The project aims to address a wider knowledge and policy gap: Not only has been very little academic research about fuel poverty and vulnerability in this part of the world, but the economic crisis in Greece has brought about an unprecedented collapse of modern energy provision in the country. Coupled with the rapid rise of income poverty, this situation has brought into light the complex technical, social and economic relations involved in sustaining the modern ʻtechnological sublimeʼ (Nye 1996, Graham 2002).

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 02.39.43

The new set of circumstances has augmented antecedent problems, whereby much of the population in the country lives in poorly-insulated homes, often finding itself in built, institutional and/or ownership arrangements that do not allow for improving the efficiency of the housing stock, or switching towards more affordable fuels (Santamouris 2007, Katsoulakos 2011). Households have developed a range of strategies and tactics to deal with their increasing vulnerability to domestic energy deprivation, often utilising informal support networks nested in communities of place and interest. The everyday articulation of such non-capitalist forms of economic provision has involved practices of social (re)production that challenge the imposition of neoliberal norms and policies (Knight 2012, Jones 2011). Thus, Greece provides a unique chance to study the extent to which alternative economies (Gibson-Graham 2006) play a role not only in terms of ameliorating poverty, but sustaining the rhythms of everyday life more generally.

The project forms one of the initial steps in what, we hope, will become a central research endeavour in the years to come: The introduction of research focusing on community transitions, social resilience and alternative economic practices to the mainstream understanding of energy vulnerability.

EVALUATE team member participates at the RESPONDER conference

By Sergio Tiraro Herrero

Last week I was in Barcelona for the 2nd ‘multinational knowledge brokerage’ event of the RESPONDER project – Sustainable housing in a post-growth Europe. Exploring Policy Options and Open Research Questions. The event was organized by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), and was hosted by the Association of Architects of Catalonia (COAC).

The workshop explored three different policy responses (social recent, refurbishment and co-housing) that emphasise the need to make housing affordable in a post-growth Europe while minimizing the environmental impact of the lifecycle of residential buildings. The discussions were located in the wider framework of beyond-growth and de-growth debates which constitute a main focus of interest of the RESPONDER project. Alternative forms of communal housing (such as co-housing in Sweden and the Mietshaüser Syndikat initiative in Germany) and new ways of political action such as the ones pushed for by the Spanish Platform of Mortgage Victims (PAH) were presented. Energy poverty/vulnerability issues were addressed along with a range of other challenges related to the difficulties of households to access affordable, quality housing.

The EVALUATE project was presented in a poster entitled ‘Bringing energy poverty into the sustainable housing research agenda: The case of Central and Eastern Europe’ co-authored by Sergio Tirado Herrero and Stefan Bouzarovski.

Guest contribution: The challenges of switching away from district heating in Poland

This blog intends to provide a forum for discussing the broader political and social dynamics that underpin energy vulnerability. Therefore, we will regularly host guest articles which explore the issue from academic, policy- and practitioner-led perspectives. The first such contribution is provided by Alastair Moore, a Registered Professional Planner who holds a Masters in Resource & Environmental Management from Simon Fraser University, and has a rich experience in, inter alia, Community Energy Management in Central and Eastern Europe.

Energy vulnerability up close and personal

Constructed after WWII war atop what was left of its bombed out foundations, our family home in Warsaw is undergoing a much needed energy retrofit. The antiquated heating system is original and integral to the home’s charm, but the time has come to put an end to wasteful energy use, high energy bills, thermal discomfort, and strained relations with our neighbour. We are set to sever our connection to the local district heating system and install a high-efficiency, gas-fired, condensing, dual-function boiler.

Why have we chosen this seemingly perverse course of action? The answer is complex and upon examination, provides a good example of our own energy vulnerability.

In reality, our home is one of two apartments in a single house. We have the top floor and our neighbour lives below. The house is situated in a residential neighbourhood served by a relatively inefficient coal-powered district heating system constructed as part of the post-war reconstruction effort. The house has been connected to the district heating system from day one. In the basement, which we share with our neighbour in a most haphazard manner, there is one heat energy consumption meter, one temperature regulator connected to the single heat exchanger, and one continuous heating loop that serves radiators in both apartments and the common areas. Heat energy is only delivered between mid-Autumn and mid-Spring, depending on weather conditions. For those who feel the cold more than others, sweaters and blankets are essential until ambient temperatures compel the district heating utility to turn the central boiler on.

After decades of use, the radiators in our apartment, and the pipes that connect them, have become extremely fouled and thus inefficient. Although each radiator has its own flow control valve, most have seized up or lost their handles, meaning that a wrench must be used to alter the heat level. The temperature setting on the heat-exchanger in the basement is now set to maximum, owing to significant heat losses in the distribution system.

Radiators in the apartment
Radiators in the apartment – remnants of the old heating system

Like so many challenges in life, both our neighbour and ourselves have developed coping strategies to help ameliorate the perversions in the system. Open windows are used to control indoor temperature levels as most radiators have little or no working control valves. Our neighbour dries her laundry in the common area, near the un-insulated heat supply pipes, rather than in her apartment. And up to this point, we have deferred upgrading our windows given the cost to do so, the lack of financial assistance, and the fact that the benefits will be shared with our neighbour.

The district heating utility is aware there are two separate apartments in the house and accordingly sends a monthly bill to each owner during the heating season. The bills are based on the consumption measured by the single meter and apportioned to each apartment owner according to the percentage of total floor space they occupy. The percentages used by the utility were calculated many decades ago and do not reflect current conditions in the house. Unfortunately, the district energy utility refuses to install multiple meters in our house which would likely reduce over consumption and encourage private investment.

The new gas-fired system
Original piping for the district heating system, overly hot but ideal for drying clothes

Our family’s lack of control over space heating energy costs has been a source of great frustration for many years. We have known we have been paying more than our fair share of the building’s energy bill as we do not occupy the apartment as much as our neighbour. And when we requested a more accurate metering/billing system the district energy utility insisted that it was up to our neighbour and ourselves to decide how to share the bill. Our neighbour meanwhile has been quite happy to have us subsidize her heating expenses.

After years of excessive energy consumption and high energy bills, we finally decided to disconnect from the central heating utility so that we could simply pay for our direct consumption of gas by our new, in-home, gas-fired system, which allows for individual metering. The irony of abandoning the typically more efficient centralized heating system in favour of a stand-alone space heating system is not lost on me. I have after all, argued in favour of expanding the use of district energy on more than one occasion given its many benefits (e.g. economies of scale, climate mitigation, energy resilience, renewable energy use, etc). However, a necessary pre-condition for wise energy use is the ability to pay for only that which you consume. While disconnecting from the central heating system is an unfortunate course of action to have to take, doing so has made wise energy use possible for my family.

When our retrofit is complete it will be enhanced by new argon-filled, double-glazed windows, programmable thermostats, and modern, individually controllable radiators. We will gain full control of our heating system so we can conserve energy where possible and save on bills. Also, we will have dramatically improved our indoor thermal comfort and eliminated a key point of friction between us and our neighbour. Tomorrow is an important day as the energy utility will come to physically disconnect our apartment from their system. However, we’ve just learned that our neighbour must agree to us disconnecting before we can fully sever ourselves from the district heating system.

It is clear to me that our situation is not unique and that many other people across Poland are experiencing the same challenges. In the absence of joined-up policy on district heating and building energy retrofits in Poland, I fear that opportunities for wise energy use may continue to be lost.

Alastair Moore, RPP, LEED AP (BD+C)

New papers by members of the EVALUATE project team

By Saska Petrova

Petrova S, Gentile M, Mäkinen I H, Bouzarovski S, 2013, Perceptions of thermal comfort and housing quality: Exploring the microgeographies of energy poverty in Stakhanov, UkraineEnvironment and Planning A 45(5): 1240-1257 

This paper explores issues of thermal comfort in the home, based on a large-scale survey undertaken in Stakhanov in Ukraine. It investigates the relationship between a range of sociodemographic, housing, and health-related factors, on the one hand, and self-reported perceptions of thermal comfort in the home, on the other. The reviewed evidence stresses the need for developing research agendas that can adequately consider the place-specific and people-specific features of inadequate domestic thermal comfort in spatial contexts where this condition is pervasive and severe.

Petrova S, Posová D, Sýkora L, House A, 2013, Discursive framings of low carbon urban transitions: The contested geographies of ‘satellite settlements’ in the Czech RepublicUrban Studies 50(7): 1439-1455

This article explores the manner in which climate change and sustainability narratives have been implicated in the development of ‘satellite settlements’ – a specific form of sprawl present in the Czech Republic. The paper scrutinises the extent to which lessons learnt from the post-communist transformation can also be extended to low carbon transitions as such. The authors of the study argue that change is most effectively enacted not by experts, but rather by local people and municipal governments. The paper has been published in the Urban Studies special issue on Cities, Urbanisation and Climate Change.

Energy vulnerability conference in Manchester – a short report

By Stefan Bouzarovski

I announced the Manchester energy vulnerability conference several times on this blog – it finally happened last week (between the 21st and 23rd of May)! The event provided an entire new range of perspectives on the emergent framework of ‘energy vulnerability’, which refers to the propensity of a household, community or state to experience inadequate energy services. We discussed the underlying dynamics, constitutive processes and wider socio-economic implications of this condition.

The conference consisted of an early career research symposium featuring 20 selected papers after an open call, and a colloquium with 12 invited high-profile speakers. More than 60 participants from across the world, and based in academia, government, and the third sector, attended and gave presentations. The event was a joint initiative of the Energy Geographies Working Group of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, and the International Energy Vulnerability Network. It was supported by the Meeting Place of the UK Energy Research Centre and the European Research Council-funded EVALUATE project.

The event was accompanied by a press release, a dedicated twitter feed and several blog posts (see http://ukerc.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/we-need-an-ambitious-and-comprehensive-fuel-poverty-policy-by-stefan-bouzarovski/); the entire proceedings were recorded and will be released as video podcasts by the UK Energy Research Centre (in addition to a detailed report) at the following website: http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/0513_MP_EnergyVulnerability.

Following introductions by Simon Guy and me, the event commenced with an early career researcher session on Planning and policy options related to energy vulnerability, chaired by Robert Marchand. It featured papers by Alexander Wochnik (on the broader spatial and temporal dynamics of energy vulnerability), Rosalina Babourkova (on urban informality and legal and political pathways to energy poverty in a Romani settlement in Sofia), Graeme Sherriff (on energy vulnerabilities as drivers of, and challenges for, policy responses), Katrin Großmann (on energy costs, residential mobility and segregation in a shrinking city) Juliana Antunes De Azevedo (speaking about a high-resolution analysis of the urban heat island effect on household electricity consumption).

Speakers at the first symposium session

The discussion then moved onto household perspectives on energy vulnerability. In a discussion chaired by Rose Chard, we had the opportunity to hear about Harriet Thomson’s latest research on the public perceptions and experiences of energy vulnerabilities across the European Union, as well as Sergio Tirado Herrero’s exploration of household strategies for coping with domestic energy costs in Hungary. This was followed by Flora Ogilvie’s health impact assessment of Englands fuel poverty policy, as well as Daniel Quiggin’s exploration of the extent to which future households are expected to be smart.

Speakers at the second symposium session

The third session on the first day of the early career researcher symposium, chaired by Komalirani Yenneti, concentrated on the assessment of area-based solutions. Presenters included Sam Wong (who offered a paper about the depoliticisation of low-carbon technologies in addressing environmental challenges via a case study of Rajasthan in India), Jenni Viitanen (who challenged the orthodoxies of policy interventions in domestic heating and energy efficiency), Susan Lagdon (who provided an evaluation of impacts in retrofitting fuel poor households via a small scale study in Northern Ireland) and Ryan Walker (who spoke about area-based approaches to fuel poverty in Northern Ireland).

Last but not least, we discussed the relevance of pathways to decarbonisation in the context of energy vulnerability (this session was also chaired by Rose Chard). Juan Cervantes presented a paper about the green economy and its implications on energy vulnerability, while Olufemi Olukayode Ogunlowo talked about ‘energy vulnerability in the midst of plenty’ in the context of CNG as a potential transportation energy source in Nigeria. Ruth Bush assessed the potential of district heat networks for realising the co-benefits of climate change mitigation and fuel poverty alleviation, while Christopher Jones investigated how the fuel poverty implications of heating services decarbonisation pathways can be avoided. Mohammed Moniruzzaman discussed the consequences of energy vulnerability and gateways to its solution.

Breakout groups at the symposium

The morning of the second day was devoted to breakout groups and open discussion sessions, exploring the themes that would be taken forward into debates during and after the event, and career opportunities available to researchers in the energy vulnerability field. The subsequent colloquium commenced with introductions to the EGWG and IEVN provided by, respectively, Gavin Bridge and me.

Stefan Bouzarovski and Gavin Bridge
Opening the colloquium

We then moved onto the first session, which provided a range of new perspectives on fuel poverty, and was chaired by Karen Bickerstaff. It contained presentations by Jamie Torrens (on why measurement of fuel poverty matters), Eldin Fahmy (on the Hills Fuel Poverty Review and its implications for research, policy and practice), Ian Preston (who debated what is fair in paying for the energy bill) as well as Saska Petrova, who provided an analytical and policy framework for moving from fuel poverty towards energy vulnerability.

Some of the speakers in the first colloquium session
Some of the speakers in the first colloquium session

The second session (chaired by Graeme Sheriff) re-positioned the concept of energy vulnerability within the process of decarbonising communities and cities. It featured presentations by Harriet Bulkeley (who explored attempts to secure decarbonisation and address energy vulnerability via community responses in London and the North East) Heather Lovell (whose presentation scrutinised the origins and outcomes of new district heating in Edinburgh and Glasgow) as well as Karen Bickerstaff (who brought in reflections from the the InCluESEV research cluster with respect to the role of energy vulnerability in a low carbon society).

The second colloquium session
The second colloquium session

The last session of the second day presented the colloquium audience with insights from the symposium, allowing for reflection and discussion in breakout groups.

The morning of the third day of the event was devoted to a session on energy vulnerability via the lens of social justice, practices and health, and was chaired by Jenni Vitanen, Here, we had the opportunity to find out about Gordon Walker’s work on understanding and addressing energy vulnerability via the lens of justice concepts, Matt Watson’s reconceptualisation of energy vulnerability through theories of practice, Damian Burton’s  redefinition of vulnerability at the city-scale as well as Matthias Braubach’s exploration of the health dimension of energy vulnerability in housing.

Speakers at the third colloquium session
Speakers at the third colloquium session

The last session of the colloquium focused on identifying the future research and policy agenda around energy vulnerability. We organised an ‘easy chair’ session with the purpose of formulating and discussing some of the main questions that emerged from the various presentations and breakout groups that took place during the event.