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‘Getting the measure of fuel poverty’: The geography of fuel poverty indicators in England

Description

Recognition of the negative impacts of fuel poverty, a lack of sufficient energy services in the home, has generated considerable interest in how the phenomenon can best be measured. Subsequently, the most well-known indicators deployed in policy-making, the established 10% indicator and the recent Low Income High Cost (LIHC) indicator, have generated considerable discussion and critique. One facet of the debate that remains unexplored is the effect of a change in indicator upon the spatial distribution of fuel poverty. Using spatial analyses we interrogate sub-regional estimates of the two indicators in England, where the LIHC indicator was first conceived. Three principle findings are discussed, enhancing understanding of the geographic features of fuel poverty as understood by each indicator. Firstly, the reduction in fuel poor households has disproportionately affected areas with lower housing costs. Secondly, there is a higher prevalence of fuel poverty in urban areas. Finally, the condition is more spatially heterogeneous with fewer ‘hot-spots’ and ‘cold-spots’. As a result, each indicator captures different notions of what it means to be fuel poor, representing particular vulnerabilities, losses of wellbeing and injustices. This has implications for the targeting of limited alleviation resources and for alternative national contexts where the LIHC indicator might be deployed.