Uncovering hidden geographies and socio-economic influences on fuel poverty using household fuel spend data: A meso-scale study in Scotland.
Internationally, previous studies have investigated the impact of socio-economic and physical dwelling factors on household electricity consumption however, to date, few such studies have been conducted in the UK. Jones et al. (2015) identify six studies that have accessed actual (as opposed to modelled) energy consumption / expenditure data and analysed these against sets of technical and socio-economic factors. This paper presents the results of a seventh study, representing the first in Scotland, the first to span urban and rural households, and the first to concentrate on households in the lower income deciles. The dataset, which includes records of household expenditure on gas used for space and water heating matched with records of dwelling and household information, is drawn from sources accessed through Renfrewshire Council and analysed using a range of standard statistical techniques. The results uncover evidence for previously unreported geographies of fuel poverty, and in so doing challenges commonly used assumptions, metrics, and approaches to policy making. Key findings include figures showing low income rural households in Scotland are spending significantly more on energy than their urban equivalents, and evidence showing that rural households on lower incomes may be spending more on heating than those on higher incomes.