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- Author or Editor: Harriet Thomson x
Carolyn Snell and Harriet Thomson, authors of Chapter Two, discuss the Coalition government’s attempt to reconcile two key dimensions of its energy policy: climate change and fuel poverty. Climate change relates to the ‘use of non-renewable forms of energy’, and fuel poverty is ‘often associated with the underuse or excessive cost of household energy’. As part of their analysis, Snell and Thomson discuss the Energy Act 2011 and its flagship policy, ‘The Green Deal’. For reasons that are explained in the chapter, the authors argue that attempts to deal with climate change can have the undesirable effect of increasing fuel poverty. In their words, ‘one policy outcome may damage the progress of the other’.
There is limited evidence that explicitly considers the relationship between fuel poverty and disabled people. Additionally, within English policy, disabled people are treated as a single group with homogenous needs, despite both highly varied needs and eligibility for fuel poverty or welfare support. Given this gap in knowledge the paper investigates the relationship between fuel poverty and disabled people in the context of policy change. The paper reports research on: the extent of fuel poverty among households containing disabled people; the relationship between tenure, disability and fuel poverty; and the relationship between fuel poverty policy support and disabled people.
This paper explores the popular idea of a ‘heat or eat’ dilemma existing for some households. The mixed-methods research finds that there is a relationship between not being able to heat the home and not being able to eat well. However, it appears that households struggle to do either, and there is considerable nuance in household decisions around energy use. Qualitative data analysis indicates the importance of energy billing periods, household composition and social and familial networks in terms of shaping household experiences and responses. The findings challenge the established idea that food and fuel are elastic household expenditures.
Climate change is both global in scope and unprecedented in scale and has been described by the UN as ‘the defining issue of our time’. There has been scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change for some time, with the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirming that it is ‘unequivocal’ that human activity has warmed the atmosphere, land and oceans. There is also substantial evidence surrounding the impacts of climate change, with evidence of it already ‘disrupting national economies and affecting lives’. Climate change threatens food, water and energy security and poses acute risks to lives and livelihoods through extreme weather events, especially heatwaves, droughts, cyclones and sea level rise.