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Ideological Alleviants: A Comparative Analysis of Fuel Poverty Policy

University of York
Date: 2012


Fuel poverty has become a recognised concept in the UK, and a growing body of research is dedicated to aspects of this issue. However, the subject remains relatively undeveloped in many other nations, with little awareness or discussion, even though activities that would be characterised in the UK as fuel poverty alleviation are often undertaken. There is no international platform for discussing policy and practice, nor is there any comparative research beyond the EU that seeks to relate the contexts and approaches in different countries. 

Key research Question

The dissertation seeks to establish an overview of fuel poverty across the world, comparing the settings and the various approaches used to tackle it, as well as the ways the issue is understood and framed in policy and the diverse models of governance. These data are then reviewed to establish the potential for global consensus on aspects of fuel poverty and also what good practice can be shared in order to address the issue in a more coordinated and effective way. 

Summary of activity

The project involved a review of global academic literature, governmental and non-governmental research, grey literature, strategy documents and related resources on the causes and impacts of fuel poverty, as well as worldwide policy formulations. The research involved a policy review of eight countries (the UK, France, Norway, Romania, China, Morocco, South Africa and India) and analysed state welfare policies designed to alleviate fuel poverty across this sample of nations. To undertake the policy review, a theoretical framework devised by Esping-Andersen and by Sharkh and Gough (2010) was developed in order to classify welfare regimes into typologies. 



The review found that there are comparable causes and effects of fuel poverty globally, which offers the potential for sharing those policies that have proved successful, but only if adequate recognition is given to the agenda. The dissertation concurs with the 2009 EPEE report ‘Tackling Fuel Poverty in Europe: Recommendations Guide for Policy Makers’ in its recommendation of the importance of consistency through four actions, namely, ‘A common definition, A legislative framework, A consistent diagnosis, A fuel poverty special interest group’ (European Partnership for Energy and the Environment, 2009: 10), with the first and third of these being identified as the most pressing, given that the lack of a global definition has hindered the recognition of fuel poverty as a distinct social issue. However, overall the review found that very few policies could clearly demonstrate success in alleviating fuel poverty, even in developed nations, which made it difficult to recommend approaches that should be transferred. 


  • Global consistency is needed across four areas, namely, a common definition of fuel poverty, legal frameworks, consistent measurement and the creation of a fuel poverty special interest group at governmental level to coordinate approaches.  

  • As an initial suggestion, the author proposes the following form of words – ‘A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if pricing, access and/or ecological factors render energy inaccessible through the most efficient and harmless channel’. 

  • Instead of policy transfer, a more general sharing of lessons between countries should occur.  

Other themes



Find out more about our Fuel Poverty themes. Discover our projects and related reports.