Practices and energy use in fuel poor social housing in the UK: reflections on a pilot study

Date: 1 Mar 2011
Speaker(s): Lucie Middlemiss
Venue: University of Leeds

Fuel poverty, where a household spends more than 10 per cent of its income on energy bills, affects around 4 to 5 million households in the UK.

With the rising cost of energy it is crucial to understand the energy practices and concerns of the fuel poor, so that appropriate responses can be designed for this growing social segment.

In this talk, Middlemiss summarised the findings of a pilot study involving qualitative interviews with social housing tenants, combined with basic energy modelling of the individual dwellings (using the Tarbase model) to estimate the carbon emissions of that household.

The results suggested that categorising such a large number of dwellings and families into one large ‘fuel poor’ group risks ignored the range of responses to fuel poverty by different tenants. In addition, the diverse construction type of social housing in the UK makes it difficult to gauge the challenge of refurbishing such a large number of buildings.

The study raises interesting points with relation to the conflicts and synergies between the low-carbon and fuel poverty agendas. It also shows that the diversity in both tenants and dwellings necessitates a subtle policy response.