The Spatially Varying Components of Vulnerability to Energy Poverty

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A household’s vulnerability to energy poverty is socially and spatially variable. However, efforts to measure energy poverty have focused upon narrow, expenditure-based metrics or area-based targeting. These metrics are not spatial per se as the relative importance of drivers does not vary between neighbourhoods to reflect localised challenges. Despite recent advancements in geographically weighted methodologies that have the potential to yield important information about the socio-spatial distribution of vulnerability to energy poverty, the phenomenon has not been approached from this perspective. For a case study of England (UK), global Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and local Geographically Weighted PCA (GWPCA) are applied to a suite of neighbourhood-scale vulnerability indicators. The explicit spatiality of this methodological approach addresses a common criticism of vulnerability assessments. The global PCA reaffirms the importance of well-established vulnerabilities including older age, disability and energy efficiency. It also demonstrates striking new evidence of vulnerabilities amongst precarious and transient households that are less well understood and have become starker during austerity. In contrast, rather than providing a single estimate of propensity to energy poverty for neighbourhoods based upon a national understanding of what drives the condition, the GWPCA identifies a diverse array of vulnerability factors of greatest importance in different locales. These local results destabilise the geographical configurations of an urban/rural and north/south divide that typify understandings of deprivation in this context. The geographically weighted approach therefore draws attention to vulnerabilities often hidden in policy-making, whilst allowing for reflection upon the applicability of spatially-constituted methodologies to wider social vulnerability assessments.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Early online date25 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019