Politics, problematisation, and policy: A comparative analysis of energy poverty in England, Ireland and France
Energy poverty, as a social and political issue, is at different stages of development across Europe. Originating in the UK, it is reaching the political agenda in other European countries, driven by a range of concurrent issues including: economic recession and inequality, low carbon energy transitions, and changing consumption demands. This article presents analysis of three national approaches to energy poverty in Europe; England, Ireland and France. In comparing these cases, we show how each defines and measures energy poverty differently and how this affects the selection and functioning of different policy solutions. We draw on the conceptual separation of multiple streams theory (politics, problems and policy) to assess the shape of energy poverty on the political agenda of each nation. We consider the political context of each nation and show how energy poverty overlaps with other agendas such as: welfare reform, energy market liberalisation and climate change. We review each country's approach to defining the problem of energy poverty focusing on how the issue is delineated and measured. In each case, we show how there has been recourse to two broad types of policy solution: subsidising energy costs and improving the efficiency of the housing stock. Our analysis reveals interesting similarities (e.g. in the use of affordability and efficiency policies) and differences (e.g. in the versatility of definitions) in addressing the significant levels of inequality in access to energy services among the populations of three Western European countries.