Fuel poverty
: retrofitting as a policy solution

  • Anna Czerwinska

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Fuel poverty is implicitly associated with households’ inability to achieve and maintain basic energy needs and primarily driven by property energy inefficiency, low incomes and high fuel costs, further compounded by behavioural and attitudinal factors. Despite terminological inconsistencies, fuel poverty is gaining international recognition, and efforts are made to protect vulnerable individuals from adverse health consequences attributed to
substandard homes. However, due to often misaligned socially-led policies, energy efficiency responses remain underdeveloped and there is a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of retrofitting solutions and their impacts on fuel poverty.

The empirical investigation underpinning this research is centred on Northern Ireland, the region of the UK most impacted by fuel poverty. A mixed methods approach involving quantitative and qualitative techniques is used to examine fuel poverty from different perspectives. Triangulation of data sources and
evidence offered a comprehensive representation of fuel poverty and energy
retrofitting strategies. Within this framework, the research utilised secondary data from the 2011 and 2016 Northern Ireland House Condition Surveys in addition to primary data from households receiving assistance through
Affordable Warmth, the energy efficiency policy for fuel poverty, as well as those participating in two pilot retrofitting programmes.

The research presents extensive evidence on the effectiveness of energy retrofitting in tackling fuel poverty. While impacts in relation to thermal comfort, energy demand and health and wellbeing were apparent, the most significant
gains were associated with the most extensive upgrades to property fabric. The rich data shows that bespoke energy retrofits are more likely to result in households being taken out of fuel poverty and that behavioural adaptations post-retrofit can facilitate and maximise the benefits from the interventions. In light of the social and property predictors of fuel poverty, the research
highlights the need for a holistic and effective energy retrofitting policy response to mitigate the problem.
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTrevor Hyde (Supervisor) & Philip Griffiths (Supervisor)


  • Energy poverty
  • Measurement
  • Energy retrofit
  • Policy implications
  • Vulnerable households
  • Regression modelling
  • Energy affordability

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