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Assessing the fuel poverty vulnerability of urban neighbourhoods using a spatial multi-criteria decision analysis for the German city of Oberhausen


Tackling fuel poverty has become an increasingly important issue on many European countriespolitical agendas. Consequently, national governments, local authorities and NGOs have established policies and programmes to reduce the fuel poverty vulnerability of households. However, evaluations of such policies and programmes show that they barely reach those who are most in need. The reasons for this failure are diverse and include fuel poverty measurement metrics, local scale data availability and policy design. This raises the question of how fuel poor homes can be more effectively identified and targeted to ensure that limited local and national budgets are used to benefit those who most need help.

Area-based approaches, which pinpoint spatial units highly affected by fuel poverty due to their specific characteristics, offer an opportunity for creating more tailored policies and programmes. In this study, the author developed a GIS-MCDA (Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis), using an AHP (Analytical Hierarchy Process) and applied the approach to the German city of Oberhausen. The overall issue of fuel poverty was broken down into three vulnerability dimensions (heating burden, socio-economic and building vulnerability), the relative importance of fuel poverty criteria and the dimensions were evaluated by experts, and an overall Fuel Poverty Index was created to assess the relative fuel poverty vulnerability of 168 urban neighbourhoods.

The analysis offers insights into the spatial pattern of fuel poverty within a city and thus provides an opportunity to channel efforts towards households in those neighbourhoods most in need. It also demonstrates that a trade-off between ecological and social targets should be considered in the development of future policies for tackling fuel poverty.