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Evaluating fuel poverty policy in Northern Ireland using a geographic approach


Recent audits have shown that anti-fuel poverty policies in the UK depend on loosely defined targeting and cannot accurately identify fuel poor households. New methods of targeting are necessary to improve fuel poverty policy. This paper uses Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques to evaluate the targeting of a home energy efficiency scheme small area level in Northern Ireland, based on the level of need. The concept of need is modelled using an area-based, multi-dimensional fuel poverty risk index. The characteristics and spatial distribution of household retrofits are explored. Policy activity and expenditure are compared with the level of need in an area. Results indicate that policy activity is only weakly associated with the level of need in an area, although policy appears to be well targeted in a few areas. Contrary to existing evidence, rural areas appear to be well served by policy, receiving above average numbers of retrofits and expenditure. There are typically two types of retrofit (major and minor). Most retrofits are minor and may not reduce fuel poverty. These results evidence the limitations of the current targeting system and suggest that there may be scope for improved policy implemented via a more proactive, area-based approach.