Effectively targeting fuel poverty requires a good understanding of levels of vulnerability and how they are constituted by poor-quality housing and economic circumstances. The main objective of this research was to develop a novel tool to assess and identify those vulnerable groups that are not recognised as fuel poor according to current fuel poverty indicators.
Key research Question
The project was guided by the following overarching research question: how can more vulnerable households be identified? Related to this, a number of focused sub-questions have also been formulated:
What is the nature of the problem relating to situations of vulnerability?
What is the quality of life of those households who live in fuel poverty?
What are the specific measures vulnerable households need in terms of fuel poverty and energy vulnerability?
How can energy efficiency interventions improve households’ quality of life?
Summary of activity
This research involved a wide literature review of current fuel poverty indicators as regards their ability to identify those households at risk of fuel poverty, which led to the definition of the new Index of Vulnerable Homes (IVH). To this end, two case studies were carried out, first in Spain and then in the UK. Additionally, a survey that collected data on households’ health status was developed to evaluate the results of the IVH.
The literature review informed the creation of the first multidimensional index, i.e. the IVH, that assesses a household’s level of vulnerability and relates it to fuel poverty. This assessment of thermal comfort in the dwelling helps in understanding the seasonality of vulnerability. Analysing the energy efficiency of dwellings provides the possibility of identifying the optimal retrofit measures in order to improve householders’ quality of life. A comparative analysis using the 10% and low income–high cost indicators showed the limitations of both indicators in assessing situations of fuel poverty properly, which suggests that there is room for improvement. From the comparative analysis of the IVH as applied in Spain and England, the significant impact of climatological factors on the level of vulnerability is shown.
(Please note the pdf thesis that forms the output of this project is currently embargoed at the author's request.)
Current fuel poverty indicators should be used prudently to provide fuel poverty statistics and define new policies for tackling this issue.