The Spatially Varying Components of Vulnerability to Energy Poverty
A household’s vulnerability to energy poverty is socially and spatially variable. Efforts to measure energy poverty, however, have focused on narrow, expenditure-based metrics or area-based targeting. These metrics are not spatial per se, because the relative importance of drivers does not vary between neighborhoods to reflect localized challenges. Despite recent advancements in geographically weighted methodologies that have the potential to yield important information about the sociospatial distribution of vulnerability to energy poverty, the phenomenon has not been approached from this perspective. For a case study of England, global principal component analysis (PCA) and local geographically weighted PCA (GWPCA) are applied to a suite of neighborhood-scale vulnerability indicators. The explicit spatiality of this methodological approach addresses a common criticism of vulnerability assessments. The global PCA reaffirms the importance of well-established vulnerabilities, including older age, disability, and energy efficiency. It also demonstrates striking new evidence of vulnerabilities among precarious and transient households that are less well understood and have become starker during austerity. In contrast, rather than providing a single estimate of propensity to energy poverty for neighborhoods based on a national understanding of what drives the condition, the GWPCA identifies a diverse array of vulnerability factors of greatest importance in different locales. These local results destabilize the geographical configurations of an urban–rural and north–south divide that typify understandings of deprivation in this context. The geographically weighted approach therefore draws attention to vulnerabilities often hidden in policymaking, allowing for reflection on the applicability of spatially constituted methodologies to wider social vulnerability assessments. Key Words: energy poverty, geographically weighted PCA, GIS, spatial analysis, vulnerability.