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The energy divide: Integrating energy transitions, regional inequalities and poverty trends in the European Union


Energy poverty can be understood as the inability of a household to secure a socially and materially necessitated level of energy services in the home. While the condition is widespread across Europe, its spatial and social distribution is highly uneven. In this paper, the existence of a geographical energy poverty divide in the European Union (EU) provides a starting point for conceptualizing and exploring the relationship between energy transitions – commonly described as wide-ranging processes of socio-technical change – and existing patterns of regional economic inequality. We have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of spatial and temporal trends in the national-scale patterns of energy poverty, as well as gas and electricity prices. The results of our work indicate that the classic economic development distinction between the core and periphery also holds true in the case of energy poverty, as the incidence of this phenomenon is significantly higher in Southern and Eastern European EU Member States. The paper thus aims to provide the building blocks for a novel theoretical integration of questions of path-dependency, uneven development and material deprivation in existing interpretations of energy transitions.