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Social dynamics and energy vulnerability

How can changes in social relations tackle fuel poverty or promote energy justice?

Project duration: November 2019 to March 2020

CSE was commissioned by the FLEXIS Social Sciences research team at Cardiff University to draw on our experiences of how changes in social relationships with individuals, families and communities can influence and address fuel poverty and other forms of energy vulnerability.

‘Energy vulnerability’ is the inability to secure (materially or socially) necessary levels of domestic energy services, like cooking or heating.

The FLEXIS Social Sciences research team developed a conceptual model which highlights that energy vulnerability shifts depending on changes in financial circumstances and wider social relationships. How people deal with these shifts can shape whether their difficulties get worse or are eased.

The aim of this research was to test and develop a greater understanding of whether approaching energy vulnerability as a dynamic condition – which individuals and households move into and out of over time – is a useful approach, and if this approach can help to identify useful interventions to end fuel poverty.

CSE drew on evidence from a variety of our projects where there had been change in social relationships, either with an individual or household, or in a community.

These projects included:

Across these projects a few of the key points that emerged about the role of social relationships in addressing energy vulnerability include that:

The analysis found that approaching energy vulnerability as a dynamic condition is a useful approach, and suggested ways to potentially improve the model. It highlighted possible areas for further investigation for interventions to tackle fuel poverty and energy vulnerability.

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