£1.25m study to examine fuel and transport poverty in the UK’s low-carbon transition

A three-year study, launched today, will study the links between fuel and transport poverty, to help ensure that the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy is fair to all.

The study will be led by the University of Sussex, with contributions from numerous partners, including Cambridge Econometrics.

The ‘Fuel and Transport Poverty in the UK’s Energy Transition (FAIR)’ study aims to explore the linkages between fuel and transport poverty, and the low-carbon transition within the UK.

Fuel poverty (poverty linked to household fuel costs) and transport poverty (linked to inaccessibility, unaffordability and unavailability of transport) have until now largely been studied as separate phenomena.

This study seeks to better understand the linkages between the them. A final objective of the study will be to propose how low-carbon energy and transport transitions can be developed so that they promote a more just society.

The project will be funded by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS).

Jennifer Dicks, Project Manager at Cambridge Econometrics said:

The low-carbon transition will lead to changes in affordability of energy and transport. In some cases energy and transport becomes more affordable, benefiting vulnerable groups in society. However, there are some instances where new injustices arise as a result of a low-carbon transition.

We need to understand in greater detail the impact that energy and transport policies, such as the promotion of electric vehicle uptake, might have on vulnerable groups in society.

We will estimate the impact of policies such as public investment in household energy efficiency or incentives to purchase low-carbon vehicles on unemployment, employment by sector, household incomes and wage rates.

The study’s principal investigator Dr Mari Martiskainen, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and Sussex Energy Group (SEG) said:

This study is pressingly needed to ensure that as the UK undergoes a significant and very necessary decarbonisation effort of Net Zero by 2050, innovations such as vehicle electrification and ‘smart’ technologies do not create new injustices.

We will be looking at who is currently vulnerable to fuel and transport poverty in the UK and to what extent and why but also how will that change over time.

Fuel and transport poverty have until now typically been treated as distinct problems in the UK with their own causes and consequences but we argue that they are in fact deeply interlinked and potentially mutually reinforcing.

It is also pleasing for me personally to lead a project which includes several early career women, especially in light of the considerable gender imbalance that still exists in UK energy research.

CREDS director Nick Eyre said:

I am delighted about this exciting new research project within CREDS. Energy demand is going to change radically in coming decades to deliver the goals of a zero-carbon energy system.

It is important that equity and justice are fully taken into account in this transition, so that we understand how benefits can be achieved by those in the most need.

More than 3.5 million households live in fuel poverty in the UK while best estimate figures for transport poverty put the figure at around 2.5 million households.

Fuel poverty can have a significantly detrimental impact on the health of individuals who lack the resources to adequately heat their home while transport poverty can leave households at risk of being cut off from work and healthcare.