Posted on 16 June 2017
The annual ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize, now in its fifth year, recognises and rewards researchers whose work has made a real difference to society or the economy. The awards ceremony will take place at Central Hall, Westminster on the evening of 21 June 2017, where the winners will be announced.
Harriet was supervised by Senior lecturer in Social Policy Dr Carolyn Snell who said of Harriet's recognition:
"I'm absolutely delighted with the ESRC decision to shortlist Harriet's thesis for the prize. Her work represents an extremely impressive contribution to our knowledge of fuel poverty across the EU."
Harriet's research focussed on measuring the EU’s fuel poverty problem. The impacts and nature of the research are detailed below.
Both Harriet’s Masters’ research and the associated PhD research to address the analytical gaps in policy and statistical understanding of fuel poverty have changed how energy poverty is considered at European level."
Theresa Griffin, MEP, North West of England
Dr Thomson stumbled on the topic for her PhD when working at an energy services company that upgraded fuel-poor households into more fuel efficient homes. “I was really struck by how a relatively minor intervention in terms of energy efficiency measures could make a really huge difference to people’s everyday quality of life,” she says.
“Living in fuel poverty is incredibly stressful as well as bad for mental health and well-being,” she points out. “Worrying about how to pay the next bill, feeling too ashamed to invite people into your home because it’s damp and cold, rationing energy use for everyday appliances like computers, those are the kinds of issues faced by about 4.5 million households in the UK.”
Thinking about the problem beyond the UK, however, Dr Thomson could find no recent pan European figures. “Fuel poverty or energy poverty as it’s also called wasn’t really seen as a major issue by the EU five years ago,” she says.
Devising a simple, visual, colour-coded country ranking system of fuel poverty at the household level, enabled her to put some figures to the problem. “That’s really helped me to bring the subject into the spotlight and change how EU decision-makers think about the issue.”
The enormity of that change, she says, is shown by last year’s EC ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ legislative proposals which call for Member States to define and measure energy poverty, and direct energy efficiency resources at energy poor households. As newly appointed manager of the EU Observatory on Energy Poverty, Dr Thomson’s role will be to help member countries meet these requirements.
Dr Harriet Thomson was shortlisted for Outstanding Early Career Impact in the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize 2017.
EU Fuel Poverty Network www.fuelpoverty.eu
Thomson, H, Bouzarovski, S & Snell, C 2017, 'Rethinking the measurement of energy poverty in Europe: a critical analysis of indicators and data' Indoor and Built Environment.