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Addressing energy vulnerability in Haringey Borough Council


Researchers from Durham University worked with Haringey Borough Council’s Carbon Management Team to develop the borough’s Affordable Energy Strategy (2020-2024)

Haringey faces high levels of deprivation and consequent fuel poverty. With this in mind, the Strategy was informed by research into the complexity of energy vulnerability in Haringey.

Research with Haringey communities

DEI has been working with Haringey Borough Council in London over a number of years studying the complex challenges in addressing energy affordability across the borough and the response from community organisations.

Early research included work with community organisations to evaluate the potential of community-based interventions to promote energy affordability and contribute to wider social, economic and health objectives. This included, research on initiatives for retrofitting houses in the area and other schemes to support residents.

The researchers discovered multiple voluntary groups with projects designed to help residents address their energy needs. However, despite some excellent work, such projects were constrained by the short term nature of funding schemes and poorly designed referral systems . There was insufficient provision for the orchestration and co-ordination of activities.

Perspectives gained from this research informed the final stage of work by Durham anthropologists Professor Sandra Bell and Dr Janice Astbury, together with Gil Cox from Haringey Borough Council Carbon Management Team. They re-analysed and updated the results to constitute a knowledge base for a new strategy in the borough that would provide a holistic tool for the abatement of fuel poverty, while reinforcing the borough’s commitment to achieving an equitable low carbon transition.

Researchers employed a model that was developed during their work on an earlier EPSRC funded research project:

Interdisciplinary Cluster on Energy Systems, Equity and Vulnerability (InCluESEV).

InCluESEV promoted interdisciplinary understandings of different kinds of energy vulnerability and resilience, demonstrating how each is shaped by complex interactions between technologies, infrastructures, policies, markets and practices. It focused on the uneven production and experience of energy vulnerabilities, for example across the lifecycle and among different social groups.

InCluSEV recognised the importance of widening the focus from fuel poverty and energy consumption choices as they relate to individuals, to public engagement as “citizen-­‐practitioners” in choices over the development of energy networks, generation capacity and wider energy policy.

Fuel poverty is understood to be driven by three factors: inadequate insulation and heating systems, low incomes, and high energy costs. Energy vulnerability widens this focus to recognise the inability to secure adequate energy services, an issue of justice and the basic rights and entitlements of a sufficient and healthful everyday life. It emphasizes that deprivation in the home is embedded not only in the resources necessary for its upkeep, such as energy provision, but also in connections between people, appliances, infrastructures, social norms and cultural values.

The InCluESEV tool

The InCluESEV tool for assessing the multiple dimensions of energy vulnerability formed the basis for work in Haringey, and contributed to the development of the Affordable Energy Strategy. It understands deprivation in terms of injustices of recognition (lack of recognition of differences in vulnerability), distribution (inequalities in income and housing and technology energy efficiency) and procedure (such as inadequate access to information on prices and solutions available).

This tool enabled the Haringey researchers to undertake a system mapping exercise in the borough to reveal households’ experiences of energy vulnerability and the intersecting dynamics through which problems are compounded.  

Haringey Affordable Energy Strategy

The Affordable Energy Strategy consists of initiatives developed in response to such specific challenges, while remaining alert to changes in circumstances and the need for adaptability.

The research and subsequent participative approach to developing the Affordable Energy Strategy enabled the Council to achieve

a) a multi-partner referral system

b) increased knowledge of social prescription

c) a flexible eligibility criteria pilot

d) a people centred approach

e) an innovative and holistic Affordable Energy Strategy


The final Haringey Borough Affordable Energy Strategy appears on the Haringey Borough Council website with foreword by Professor Sandra Bell and is now being rolled out across the Borough. 

Find out more about


University student
The work in Haringey demonstrates the value of local authorities adopting a whole systems approach to energy vulnerability that encourages collaborations between residents, council departments and grass roots organisations. The strategy pursues a double purpose of tackling deprivation and carbon emissions to deliver social justice and climate action through a single policy instrument.

Professor Sandra Bell, Durham Energy Institute,
Durham University Anthropology Department