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Rural Fuel Poverty – Defining a Research Agenda

Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE)
Date: 2002


In 2001, Eaga Charitable Trust (CT) and the CSE held a national conference on rural fuel poverty. Following on from this, EAGA CT commissioned the CSE to undertake a review of the subject.

Key research Question

The report aimed to determine the state of knowledge on rural fuel poverty. It also considered how far the issue was reflected across a range of different policy areas – fuel poverty, rural communities and poverty and exclusion in general. From this baseline, it sought to ascertain where future research on rural fuel poverty would be most effectively focused.

Summary of activity

The report details a review that focuses largely on England, although mention is made of relevant programmes in other parts of the UK with a view to informing English policy and practice.



The review of available literature identified that poverty and exclusion are often qualitatively different in rural and urban environments. Poor infrastructure, particularly transport, is an important element, as is the lack of affordable housing. Therefore, standard measures and mechanisms, which predominantly relate to urban areas, are inappropriate.


Extant research on fuel poverty in rural areas is limited. However, that which does exist suggests that information on energy efficiency initiatives such as Warm Front is not getting through. In general, the evidence indicates significantly higher fuel costs, a higher proportion of ‘hard-to-heat’ and ‘hard-to-treat’ properties, higher costs associated with delivering efficiency schemes and reduced access to bill payment facilities.


Relevant policy continues to neglect rural fuel poverty. While the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy does include consideration of the issues affecting rural areas, these are not given sufficient emphasis. The Rural White Paper, however, does not mention fuel poverty, which is attributed to the fact that inadequate evidence and information were submitted.


The report selects three core research priorities. These are:

  • Understanding the nature and extent of rural fuel poverty – future studies should explore the particular characteristics of fuel poverty in the countryside and investigate the differences between various rural settings.
  • Delivering energy programmes in rural communities – priority topics here are identified as a) developing advice and guidance programmes in rural areas and b) what energy efficiency measures are most suited to countryside areas and what technical challenges exist, with a view to identifying good practice.
  • Innovative energy services in rural areas – the nature of rural areas offers fertile ground for testing new technologies and expanding others. For example, biomass or small-scale combined heat and power schemes may be more cost-effective for rural communities than standard measures such as expanding the mains gas supply. Government pilots on renewable energy provide an opportunity to research the feasibility of such schemes, which should include their cost-effectiveness and roles in supporting rural economies and building community sustainability.

Other themes



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