Advancing an energy justice perspective of fuel poverty: household vulnerability and domestic retrofit policy in the United Kingdom

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The concept of energy justice is increasingly relevant in industrialised countries, where policymakers face significant challenges to establishing affordable, low-carbon and secure energy systems. This emerging field has brought philosophies of ethics and principles of social justice to bear on a range of contemporary energy issues. More inter-disciplinary and applied endeavours are now needed to take this field forward. One such application is to the issue of fuel poverty and the challenge of retrofitting inefficient housing stock. An energy justice perspective sees fuel poverty as a fundamentally socio-political injustice, not just one of uneven distribution of affordable energy services (Walker and Day, 2012). Starting from this premise, we focus on the multiple injustices faced by two groups who are regarded by policy as being particularly vulnerable to fuel poverty: disabled people and low-income families with young children. In the UK, these two groups are nominally prioritised within fuel poverty policy, but their complex situations are not always fully appreciated (e.g. Snell et al., 2015). Building on the theoretical foundations of energy justice, we present an inter-disciplinary dialogue that connects this approach with the prominent research and policy agendas of vulnerability and energy efficiency. Specifically, we discuss ‘within group’ heterogeneity (recognition justice), stakeholder engagement in policy and governance (procedural justice) and the overlap of multiple structural inequalities (distributional justice). In each section we illustrate the added value of combining justice and vulnerability considerations by linking them to the context of domestic energy efficiency schemes, raising some critical questions and recommendations for this flagship approach to tackling fuel poverty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date18 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Authors


  • Energy Justice
  • Fuel Poverty
  • Disabled People
  • Children
  • Poverty
  • Energy justice
  • Fuel poverty
  • Energy efficiency
  • Vulnerability

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