The lived experience of fuel poverty and energy vulnerability is an embodied emotional experience. How people feel about their situation, and how they regulate those emotions, influences not just their health and wellbeing but also their behavioural responses. As the findings above show, emotions such as worry, fear and shame, and also care and concern for other household members including pets, shape how people think about and manage their energy use and whether and how they seek and receive support.
4.1 Key findings
These experiences are situated in the specificities of particular contexts and social relationships and cannot be neatly segmented by demographics. However, there are some patterns across the studies that impact on the ability to 'acquire the energy services needed to live a decent and healthy life':
- households with the greatest need are often not asking for, not eligible for, or are not getting support. There are also difficulties with accessing and making sense of energy-related information
- instability of income and unexpected bills is more of a concern for some than the actual level of income or bill, hence a preference for pre-payments meters which provide immediate and transparent feedback about energy usage in an easy-to-understand way
- tendency for low financial resilience and short-term financial management
- general lack of knowledge about how to use heating systems, particularly electric heating, effectively
- additional energy and support needs of disabled people are often not recognised. These additional needs also make these households more costly for service providers to support
- specific circumstances of refugees that mean they are not well prepared for managing their energy use and bills
- gendered and generational differences in perception of warmth and comfort, and tensions between household members about energy use
- importance of social networks and personal relationships for support with coping and dealing with problems
- tendency for there to be distrust or difficult relationships with housing providers/landlords and private energy companies, and relationships of trust with intermediaries such as energy advisors.
- preference to think of oneself as coping well. Some strategies for keeping warm are not perceived as negative
4.2 Further research
The findings discussed above are drawn from a small number of studies, most of which focus on particular subgroups of people experiencing fuel poverty. The findings offer a picture of what life is like for the research participants, and although insightful it is a partial view and there are many aspects that could be explored in greater depth to enrich our understanding of how certain households certain households are hindered and how they are facilitated in acquiring the energy services needed to live a 'decent and healthy life'. The broader range of challenges or drivers identified by Middlemiss & Gifford (2015) could be a useful framing for future primary research, as is the concept of energy vulnerability.