Social Justice and Energy Consumption: The Problem of Fuel Poverty

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Sylvia MANDL , Inst Sustainable Development, Austria
Karl-Michael BRUNNER , Socioeconomics, Institute for Sociology and Social Research, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria
Anja CHRISTANELL , Austrian Inst Sustainable Development, Austria
The social discourse on sustainable development not only focuses questions of intergenerational and global justice, but also increasingly questions of social ecological inequalities in industrialized countries (keyword: environmental justice). Within this framework, a society’s consumption of resources is associated with inequalities. When it comes to climate change, the focus is on questions of responsibilities and persons concerned, inevitably bringing up the issue of social inequalities and thus a central field of sociology. Likewise, when management tools towards sustainability are discussed, social inequalities are addressed (e.g. in connection with environmental taxes). However, social science-oriented environmental and sustainability research on consumption of resources and social inequalities is still at its beginning regarding both, theoretical conceptualisation and empirical research.

In the proposed presentation, one dimension of this topic will be stressed, namely the relationship between energy consumption and social inequality in general and the issue of fuel poverty in particular. Insights will be given into an Austrian fuel poverty project (funded by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund, 2012-2014) which has the aims of implementing tailor-made measures of energy efficiency against fuel poverty in 400 fuel poor households in Austria and of elaborating a national program against fuel poverty. Three different projects (two of them on a local and one on a nationwide basis) covering fuel poor households from urban as well as rural regions serve as examples of implementation. The programmes and measures are evaluated regarding their effectiveness and their improvement of advice services. Benefits (e.g. mitigation of burdens related to fuel poverty, reduction of CO2-emissions) and costs calculated. First empirical results of the evaluation will be presented at the conference and discussed in the light of social-ecological inequalities.