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.

New EVALUATE paper: Spatializing Energy Justice

Stefan Bouzarovski and Neil Simcock have recently published a new EVALUATE paper, ‘Spatializing energy justice’.  The paper appears in a Special Issue of the journal Energy Policy, ‘Exploring the Energy Justice Nexus’.

The paper introduces an explicit spatial vocabulary to understandings of energy justice.  It highlights the geographic disparities in the risk and incidence of energy poverty, arguing that this is a key component of energy (in)justice.  Such geographic disparities are reproduced through four mechanisms – termed landscapes of material deprivation, geographic underpinnings of energy affordability, vicious cycles of vulnerability, and spaces of misrecognition – that operate from the local to the global scale.

The paper’s findings add further weight to the belief that energy poverty is a distinct and severe form of (energy) injustice, acting as a reminder that its alleviation is a fundamental political duty rather than an optional act of benevolence.  Furthermore, while lending some support to local and area-based energy poverty alleviation policies, the findings also indicate the need to intervene in the deeper, wider-scale processes and mechanisms through which spatial inequality and energy poverty (re)produced.

The paper is open access and is available to freely read and download.  We can recommend the rest of the Special Issue, which contains an impressive set of conceptual and empirical papers.

EVALUATE presentations on energy poverty and gender

I recently had the opportunity to present results from the qualitative element of EVALUATE’s fieldwork to two very different audiences.  First, I attended the ‘hopefulNESS’ 2017 conference in Tampere, Finland, where I presented some emerging findings on the gender aspects of energy poverty in the ‘Global North’ context – based on analysis and writing I have been doing in collaboration with Saska Petrova.  Gender is an issue that has been widely explored in relation to the experience of energy poverty in the Global South, where it is well known that, for example, women disproportionately suffer the harmful consequences of inadequate access to electricity.  However, in the industrialised nations of the Global North, gender is an issue that has (surprisingly) hitherto been unexplored.  Our findings from the EVALUATE project begins to address this gap, elucidating some of the ways that gender is intertwined with how energy poverty is (often unequally) experienced within the home.  The presentation received an excellent response from the audience, who really engaged with lots of insightful questions and comments, particularly in terms of the ‘co-constitutive’ relationship between energy poverty and household gender relations.

A week later I gave a similar presentation to a meeting of Greater Manchester Authority’s ‘Housing Retrofit Group’.  Again there were some very insightful comments and suggestions from the audience, including issues around the control of household finances, the complexity of power and decision-making within a household, and the extent to which the findings apply to the UK context.  The implications of the findings for UK policy-makers at a local and national level was also reflected upon.

It was really useful to present to such diverse audiences with different priorities and interests, but very encouraging that the topic really seemed to interest both groups.  Saska and I will continue our work on the gender-energy poverty nexus – which we are very excited about as it is almost completely unexplored in the academic literature – with the aim of submitting a journal paper very soon.  Watch this space for further updates!

Energy poverty spring tour

This spring there have been several events focussed on, or related to, energy poverty, which EVALUATE team member Dr Harriet Thomson has had the opportunity to participate in. On 6th March, Energy Action held their annual Fuel Poverty and Climate Action conference in Dublin. This day-long conference featured a range of speakers from academia, local government, energy companies, and energy regulators, with four keynote speakers: Denis Naughten TD, FR Sean McDonagh, Professor John Sweeny, and Dr Brenda Boardman. In a session focussed on European fuel poverty, Harriet outlined findings from the EVALUATE project and introduced our new European Energy Poverty Observatory project.

At the end of March, Harriet was invited to speak at a workshop organised by the European Policy Centre in Brussels, as part of their Energy Poverty Task Force. The workshop focussed on how to measure progress on lifting people out of energy poverty, with interventions from DG Energy (European Commission), a Member of the European Parliament, Trinomics, and the University of Stuttgart.

More recently, Harriet attended the 1st International Conference on Energy Research and Social Science (ERSS), held in sunny Sitges, Spain. This was an exciting event to attend, particularly as several EVALUATE team members have a connection to the journal linked to this conference; Dr Harriet Thomson is an Associate Editor, Professor Stefan Bouzarovski sits on the Editorial Board, and Dr Neil Simcock recently guest edited a Special Issue entitled ‘Energy demand for mobility and domestic life: new insights from energy justice’.

On the first day of the ERSS conference, Harriet gave a presentation entitled ‘Re-visioning the measurement of energy poverty in Europe: a critical analysis of indicators and data’, which summarises a new article that was recently published in Indoor and Built Environment with Professor Bouzarovski and Dr Carolyn Snell. This presentation formed part of ‘Session 1: New Frontiers in Fuel Poverty Research’ and was chaired by Dr Lucie Middlemiss. One of the best things about the ERSS conference was seeing the huge diversity in work currently being undertaken worldwide on fuel poverty. Two presentations focused on the issue in Japan, another examined energy affordability in the United States, and a further three presentations looked at the lived experience of energy vulnerability, a comparison of approaches in England, France, and Ireland, and energy justice within the context of domestic retrofits. These presentations were further complemented by a session held two days later, entitled ‘Session 14: The complexities of energy and poverty’. This session also contained a range of interesting projects, including a talk by Dr Karen Parkhill on energy vulnerabilities as a result of welfare and employment policy reform, and Dr Sergio Tirado Herrero’s presentation on energy poverty, disconnections and transformative citizen action in Barcelona.

It has certainly been a good time for energy poverty researchers, with growing recognition and interest in the topic. Keep following this blog for updates on upcoming events in the summer, especially our energy poverty sessions at the RGS-IBG conference, and the second early career researcher symposium, to be held in conjunction with National Energy Action.

PhD studentship now available: New cityscapes of micro-energy storage

We are pleased to announce this unique opportunity to work on a fully-funded trans-discplinary research project at the University of Manchester.

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Information and mobile technologies have been heralding a new wave of electrification in households, thanks to the increased use of batteries in particular. However, it is less known how the expansion of battery-based electric power across an ever-increasing range of devices is transforming people’s everyday lives, and by implication, the wider technical and cultural fabric of cities. Using original empirical research, this PhD project seeks to provide novel insights into the social and infrastructural dimensions of the new urban energy landscapes associated with battery use.

Please contact Professor Stefan Bouzarovski with any questions about the position. The studentship is expected to commence in the 2017/2018 academic year.

The studentship is available to British and UK-resident EU nationals only. More information is available here.

EVALUATE team to host new European Energy Poverty Observatory

A new information hub led by EVALUATE project researchers extends the reach and impact of existing research

ObservatoryLogo

This week saw the official launch of the European Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) – a new initiative supported by the European Union, aimed at providing a public hub for the gathering and dissemination of information on the extent and nature of domestic energy deprivation in Europe. The Observatory will collect and publish Europe-wide energy poverty data while serving as the focal point of an emergent network of policy-makers, research scientists, advocacy groups and community activists interested in the issue. It will aim to improve the state of the art on energy poverty detection, measurement and reporting by creating a public forum for the exchange of knowledge on the issue.

The Observatory is part of a growing drive to consolidate energy policy at the level of the European Union, reflected in the recent Energy Union and Clean Energy Package proposals. It is thus expected that the EPOV will become a decision-support tool for the significant amount of new European Union-wide energy policy, regulation and legislation that will be developed in the near future.

The Observatory itself is a vast organization, comprising a consortium of 13 universities, research institutes, companies and advocacy groups. More than 100 internationally-renowned experts are involved in its work via these organizations and EPOV’s independent Advisory Board.

The University of Manchester leads EPOV; Dr Harriet Thomson is its Project Manager and Professor Stefan Bouzarovski is the Observatory’s Chair. Both Stefan and Harriet are currently also heavily involved in the EVALUATE project, which means that EPOV directly builds on and extends EVALUATE’s findings. This particularly refers to the development of pan-European energy poverty indicators and definitions – a key theme in EVALUATE research to date (e.g. see here and here) – as well as the development of new knowledge exchange networks to improve scientific and policy knowledge on the issue.

Find out more about the observatory on its official website.

Public seminar: Connecting national energy transitions with changes in urban energy systems

CURE will host a public talk entitled ‘Connecting national energy transitions with changes in urban energy systems’, by Professor Aleh Cherp. It will be held on the 1st of December at 3pm, room G32 in Humanities Brigdeford Street. The event will be chaired by Nora Mzavanadze and followed by a wine reception.

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Aleh Cherp is a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy of Central European University (Hungary) and in the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University (Sweden). His research areas include political economy of energy transitions and energy security. He currently leads the POLET (Political Economy of Energy Transitions) project which is part of the Energy and Society Intellectual Theme at CEU. In 2008-2012 he was the Convening Lead Analyst on Energy Security of the Global Energy Assessment. Prof Cherp has undertaken professional work for the European Environment Agency (EEA), NATO, OSCE, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, and USAID among others. He was the Rapporteur of the Advisory Working Group on the Environment (including Climate Change) of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Commission and a panel chair and an evaluator of the European Research Council. In addition to his research, Aleh coordinates a Masters’s program on Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management (formerly an Erasmus Mundus Masters course) jointly operated by 6 Universities including the University of Manchester. Aleh also runs a popular blog on academic productivity – ‘Macademic – Academic workflows on Mac‘.

Incidentally Aleh is also an alumnus of the University of Manchester having graduated with a MS degree in Pollution and Environmental Control in 1992 and a PhD degree in Environmental Impact Assessment from the Department of Planning of Landscape in 2000.

Aleh’s current research focuses on studies of energy security and energy transitions using the lens of political economy. His public talk at the University of Manchester will present his and his team’s attempts in defining and framing energy transitions from a theoretical standpoint. Energy transition as a concept stems from the practitioners’ and policy-makers’ world in response to various policy initiatives to transform the energy systems away from dependence on fossil fuels for many reasons, e.g. energy security, economic competitiveness, climate change among many others. Aleh will bring insights from energy transitions in Germany and Japan and will talk about the implications for urban energy transformations.

An abstract of Aleh’s talk is included below. We hope that Aleh’s come back to his Alma Mater will be pleasant and fruitful.

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There is no single theory of national energy transitions and the literature differs on how the vast existing knowledge could be best integrated. A recent study has proposed a meta-theoretical framework for the analysis of national energy transitions, which is based on the concept of co-evolution of semi-autonomous systems delineated by (a) energy flows; (b) energy technologies and (c) energy policies and governance arrangements. This framework uses Elinor Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) approach to bring together three perspectives: techno-economic with its roots in economics; socio-technical with its roots in sociology of technology; and political with its roots in political science. IAD provides a structure for systematically identifying and integrating variables and theories from the three perspectives for understanding continuity and change in national energy systems. This talk will explore the applicability of lessons from this framework and empirical comparative studies to urban energy transformations.