Will low carbon innovation bring energy justice or further fuel poverty?
22nd February 2019

Vulnerable households may benefit or suffer further injustice from the switch to low carbon technology depending on whether risks are preempted and actively mitigated, according to new research by the University of Sussex and the Energy Systems Catapult.

Decarbonising our energy system to achieve 2050 emissions targets will require extensive innovation, which has the potential to benefit consumers and truly put them at the heart of the energy system, including vulnerable households. Yet there is also a risk the transformation could create new injustices unless the risks are preempted and actively mitigated.

The study assessed three household innovations (energy services, solar photovoltaic panels and low carbon heating) and one transport innovation (electric vehicles), assessing each innovation across four areas: affordability, resource efficiency and environmental performance, equity of accessibility and fairness for vulnerable groups. It found that there could be positives and negatives for each of the innovations across these four assessment areas.

Ultimately, decarbonising our energy system can work hand in hand with alleviating the impact of existing vulnerabilities to fuel poverty and enhancing principles of justice, but it also threatens to push people into new forms of fuel poverty and exclusion unless risks are preempted and actively mitigated.

The study, entitled “Temporality, vulnerability, and energy justice in household low carbon innovations,” was published in the May 2019 (Volume 128) of Energy Policy.