Fuel poverty in Northern Ireland: Humanizing the plight of vulnerable households

Ryan Walker, C Liddell, Paul McKenzie, Christopher Morris, Susan Lagdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Households in fuel poverty are unable to heat their homes at reasonable cost. Energy efficiency programmes
aim to tackle fuel poverty and should target resources towards households in greatest need.
Households often do not have access to these kinds of schemes, as policies do not acknowledge the
complex interaction between households, incomes and domestic energy efficiency, and the high level
of variability which results. This paper explores this interaction at household level, and the diversity of
fuel poverty which results amongst households in Northern Ireland, a region particularly prone to fuel
poverty. Survey data (N = 1595) are used to generate pen portraits for 18 households in varying degrees
of fuel poverty. Eligibility for free energy efficiency improvements is assessed and the impacts of tailored
interventions on fuel poverty are predicted. The results reveal diversity amongst fuel poor households
and, in many instances, households in most severe fuel poverty do not fit the criteria for energy efficiency
upgrades, despite standing to benefit from significantly reduced fuel poverty. The impacts of retrofitting
are greatest for those in greatest need, but even the most generous package would leave a considerable
number of households in fuel poverty, for which additional policy measures are required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-99
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date21 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Dec 2014


  • Fuel poverty
  • Energy efficiency
  • Energy equity
  • Mixed methods


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