Energy justice? A spatial analysis of variations in household direct energy consumption in the UK

Panel: 1. Foundations of future energy policy

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Tim Chatterton, University of the West of England, United Kingdom
Jo Barnes, University of the West of England, United Kingdom
Godwin Yeboah, The Centre for Transport Research, United Kingdom
Jillian Anable, The Centre for Transport Research, United Kingdom

Abstract

National and international targets for reductions in carbon emissions and energy use are usually framed in terms of percentage reductions. However, the amount of energy used by households varies greatly, with some households using considerably more than others and therefore potentially being able to make a bigger contribution towards societal reductions. Using recently released datasets from the UK Government, we analyse patterns of direct household energy usage from domestic gas and electricity consumption and from private motor vehicles. Early analysis of the data reveals that those households with the highest domestic energy consumption are also likely to be those that use the most energy from their motor vehicles. Whilst much work has been done around fuel poverty, our findings suggest that there may be an opposite issue around ‘energy decadence’, where the actions of certain households or groups within society are placing much greater strain on energy networks and environmental systems than they need. These people may also be the ones most likely to be able to afford energy efficiency measures to reduce their impacts and should therefore be a high priority in the targeting of policy interventions. However, household energy resource is not necessarily a simple ‘good’ that ought to be equally distributed. Different housing stock, accessibility of services and a wide range of other factors all lead to different energy requirements in order to attain acceptable quality of life. Using the spatial basis of the datasets, we link energy use data with a range of other data in order to try and differentiate between areas of profligate energy use and those of high energy need. The near universal coverage of these government datasets allows an entirely new geography of energy do be mapped out opening up new possibilities for targeting interventions for energy reduction at those who can make the greatest savings, whilst ensuring that those who can’t can be protected from adverse effects of policies.

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