The Speird Project

Start Date October 2015
Completion Date November 2016
Grant Holders: Glasgow Caledonian University
Main Contact Dr Keith Baker, School of Engineering and the Built Environment, Glasgow Caledonian University


The Scottish Government’s statistics now show that rural households spend more on energy to heat their homes than urban equivalents. However, research conducted by the project team using data from households in Renfrewshire has found this ‘energy spend gap’ is more significant than those statistics suggest, whilst other research has shown that influences on the energy spend of rural households are also highly multi-facted. The Speird Project validates and significantly expands on these findings across five areas of Scotland. The findings provide new evidence on the extent and segmentation of fuel poverty in Scotland – uncovering the ‘hidden geographies’ of fuel poverty across rural areas and the islands.

The full report and summary of this research can be accessed below:



Understanding the impact of smart prepayment on fuel poverty

Start Date October 2015
Completion Date October 2016
Grant Holders: Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE)
Main Contact Nicky Hodges, Centre for Sustainable Energy


Prepayment (PPM) customers are known to be poorly served by the energy market, paying higher tariffs, having difficulty switching tariff and/or supplier and being at risk of self-disconnection. Numbers of PPM customers are rising (due to debt recovery) and there has been an early focus on PPM customers through the smart meter rollout.

This research will provide an early-stage snapshot of the impact of smart meter technology on PPM households. It will examine industry-wide statistical trends, and combine customer interviews with analysis of customer data to ascertain the extent to which benefits claimed from smart PPM (real-time data, flexible top-up options, greater control and reduced bills) are being realised and if benefits outweigh negatives (e.g. higher tariffs).

Research summary  

Full report

Energy (in)efficiency: exploring what tenants expect and endure in the private rented sector in England

Start Date August 2015
Completion Date December 2016
Grant Holders: Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University
Main Contact Aimee Ambrose, Senior Research Fellow


Previous research has established that private landlords think energy efficiency is not important to their tenants. This project used in-depth qualitative interviews (plus a short postal survey) with tenants of private rented properties in Hackney and Rotherham to test this assumption and understand what tenants expect and endure in relation to energy inefficiency. The project will also establish the likelihood that tenants will use the Energy Act to request energy efficiency improvements from their landlords. By better understanding tenants’ perspectives on energy efficiency, clarifying their needs, expectations and competing priorities, we hope that the project will aid development of better informed approaches to improving energy performance in the private rented sector.

Evidence review
Full report
Research summary

Masters of Research dissertation: Policy heterogeneity in fuel poverty alleviation – a comparative analysis of Germany and the United Kingdom

Completion Date November 2015
Grant Holders: Masters student: Andreas Schneller. Supervised by Dr Michael Mason, Associate Professor in Environmental Geography, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Main Contact Dr Michael Mason


Fuel poverty, the inability to maintain an adequate level of warmth at a reasonable cost, is a social phenomenon which exemplifies the difficulties that policy makers face in integrating social and environmental policies.  This paper will demonstrate that fuel policy is prevalent in both Germany and the UK. However, each nation has adapted highly contrasting responses to alleviate the issue. In order to identify and discuss the varying national patterns and approaches, this paper applies the method of a cross-national comparative analysis. The analysis will be informed by a theoretical framework which embodies theories of the policy-making process. Identifying factors of policy heterogeneity in fuel poverty alleviation is the primary aim of this paper. In addition, lessons will be drawn from the UK experience in defining, measuring and targeting fuel poverty in Germany.


Download Schneller dissertation

Reaching fuel poor families: informing new approaches to promoting take-up of fuel poverty assistance among families with children

Start Date April 2014
Completion Date September 2014
Grant Holders: The Children’s Centre and the Association for the Conservation of Energy
Main Contact Sarah Royston, Association for the Conservation of Energy


‘Reaching fuel poor families: informing new approaches to promoting take-up of fuel poverty assistance among families with children’ is a collaborative project between The Children’s Society and the Association for the Conservation of Energy ACE).  It aims to review a range of fuel poverty schemes aimed at families, and conduct an in-depth evaluation of one specific scheme based in a children’s centre run by The Children’s Society. It will provide recommendations that will be implemented in this scheme, and inform a potential roll-out to other centres in future. It will also draw lessons of broader relevance to fuel poverty schemes aimed at families.

Full project report, report to Mortimer House Children’s Centre, delivery guide, policy briefing and research summary:

Download RFPF research summary
Download RFPF delivery guide
Download RFPF policy briefing
Download Reaching Fuel Poor Families – Full Research Report
Download Reaching Fuel Poor Families – Report to Mortimer House

Identifying the fair share: billing for district heating in hard to treat properties

Start Date May 2014
Completion Date May 2015
Grant Holders: Changeworks
Main Contact Tessa Clark, Researcher


District heating is a real option to meet fuel poverty goals and housing standards. How tenants engage with these heating systems and the form of billing is critical to their use. This research focuses on the implications for tenants and landlords of this transition from energy provided in the form of conventionally regulated fuels to unregulated heat provided by the landlord or contracted third party.  Working with a number of social landlords, the project will look at existing installs to determine the range of tenant practices, review monitoring and billing protocols (including prepayment meters) and provide recommendations on tenant advice, a fair tariff structure and approach for future roll out.

Main research report, appendices and research summary:

Download research summary
Download main research report
Download appendicies

Masters of Research dissertation: A qualitative analysis of the perceptions and experiences of fuel poverty amongst young adults

Completion Date : September 2015
Grant Holders: Masters student: Danielle Butler. Supervised by Dr Graeme Sherriff, Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit, University of Salford
Main Contact : Dr Graeme Sherriff.


Fuel poverty literature to date has widely focused on vulnerable demographic groups such as the elderly, families or those with long-term illnesses or disabilities. One demographic group that remains largely absent from the evidence base is young adults. Research has highlighted that young adults may fail to acknowledge or recognise that they are living in conditions indicative of fuel poverty, subsequently failing to take up targeted support. This piece of qualitative research aims to explore the experiences, attitudes and perceptions of fuel poverty among adults aged 18 to 24 who live independently in Salford. It is hoped that the outcomes of this research will help to inform future policy on how best to target support towards a young adult population.

Masters dissertation:


Green Gown Award research blog and video

Masters of Research dissertation – Fuel poverty and energy behaviours: does a post-boiler upgrade intervention increase energy efficiency?

Start Date April 2014
Grant Holders: Masters student: Karen Smith. Supervised by Dr Sarah Hills, Faculty of Environment and Technology, University of West of England
Main Contact Dr Sarah Hills


This research will explore energy demand reduction with householders at risk of fuel poverty through a practical intervention just after a new heating system installation – an underused trigger point with potential for the adoption of more sustainable energy practices.  It will first check the information currently given after a heating system upgrade.  Qualitative participative inquiry with householders in their homes and tailored messaging will examine the most efficient use of the heating system to suit householders’ needs.  Observational evidence on behaviour change and data on fuel usage will indicate any adoption of energy saving behaviour and reduction in energy consumption.


Download dissertation

An Assessment Tool for Low Income/High Costs (LIHC) Fuel Poverty – Final Stage 3

Start Date:               November 2015
Completion Date:  December 2017
Grant Holders:       Richard Moore and Energy Audit Company
Main Contact:         Richard Moore


This is the final third stage of a project to develop a flexible assessment tool to target low income/high costs (LIHC) fuel poverty, jointly funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Citizens Advice, National Energy Action and Eaga Charitable Trust.  The report updates the 2015 Stage 2 report and is in two parts.  The first part details the further development and extension of the UNO based software version of the tool and the production of a new web based version (freely available on the NEA website – link below).  The second part describes the practical problems with the official LIHC indicator and shows how the assessment tool can be used to more accurately and comprehensively target those households most in need.

Links to Stage 3 full report, research summary and guidance documents:

Full report

Research summary

Guidance documents

Fuel poverty assessment tool 

An Assessment Tool for Low Income/High Costs (LIHC) Fuel Poverty – Stage 2 (2015)


This is the second stage of a project to market test, develop and disseminate a practical assessment tool to target low income/high cost (LIHC) fuel poverty.  Using the Energy Audit Company’s UNO model as a basis, a prototype tool to determine LIHC fuel poverty and measure the fuel poverty gap will be developed and tested for accuracy using English Housing Survey data. The tool will be designed to assess the fuel poverty of individual households or areas of housing at three levels of detail, depending on the local data available.  As well as being free to existing UNO users, a detailed methodological report will enable others to replicate the tool.

Links to Stage 2 full report & research summary:

Stage 2 full report

Stage 2 research summary