SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Energy deprivation in everyday living: Estimating, profiling, and escaping energy poverty in Canada

Context 

Domestic energy poverty refers to a situation where a household does not have adequate energy services, for example due to lack of funds or poor housing conditions, to achieve day to day living requirements. The most common energy service needs are usually for lighting, cookingheating and/or cooling – though these requirements can change from country to country. A new project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, seeks to look beyond scholarly definitions of energy poverty, to measure the lived reality of this emerging form of social inequality in Canada. The project is led by Dr Runa Das at Royal Roads University, Canada, with assistance from Dr Mari Martiskainen at SPRU, who acts as an international partner and helps the project with research design and implementation. 

Canada’s economy and society is gradually shifting from one being largely based on fossil fuels to one being based on less carbon-intensive forms of energyHowever, this energy transition has far-reaching effects at material, economic and institutional levels. Although the economic and environmental benefits of this transition are widely discussed and accepted (e.g. greenhouse gas emission reductions), far less is known about the impacts on the ability of individuals and households to secure adequate energy services.   

Methodology 

The project will investigate critical questions such as: 

  • Who is living in energy poverty in Canada?  
  • What are the reasons for energy poverty in Canada 
  • What are the lived experiences of those who face energy poverty 
  • What are some of the strategies addressing energy poverty? 

The project uses a number of methods to investigate the above questions: 

  • The team will examine data from national surveys to produce indicators for benchmarking energy poverty and for monitoring national trends in Canada.
  • The project will collect new primary data, carrying out in-depth interviews to understand the lived experiences of thosfacing energy poverty. 
  • The researchers will construct a preliminary framework to evaluate the scope and context of energy poverty strategies such as policies, tools and programmes in two Canadian citiesgenerating insights for potential future studies. 

Impact and outreach 

The project will provide an understanding of who is most in need of helpwhat their experience is and the support they require to have adequate energy services. It will also provide insights into which of the existing strategies addressing energy poverty work and which are less successful. These findings will directly benefit professionals and practitioners by providing them with the necessary knowledge to act on the issue of energy poverty through both policy and/or programme development. By focussing on the lived experiences of those who face energy poverty, the project aims to humanise the issue, enriching public discourse and understanding of the issue.