Energy insecurity in Nord-Pas-de-Calais: insecurity at home and overall energy vulnerability – study financed by the French government organisation PUCA (Master Plans, Planning, Construction, Architecture).

Hervé BARRY (Catholic University of Lille/CRESGE)
Agathe DOUCHET (Catholic University of Lille/CRESGE)

The research is focused on energy usage dynamics in homes and when travelling. The aim is to better define the impact of lifestyle. This results in an analytical model organised with three focuses: permeability to consumption norms; the importance of geographical mobility, and households turning in on the home and/or its inhabitants.
The 35 households interviewed are divided between the three focuses of the model. A structure based on “non-permeability” to superfluous consumption and the tendency towards “the household turning in on itself” predominates. There is no obvious link between mobility and either of the other two variables retained. Moreover, a clear correlation appears between lifestyle and specific energy vigilance indices: the most vigilant are on the side of restriction (on consumption and mobility) combined with the household turning in on itself.
Biographical events alter the relationship with energy. While the influence of position in the lifecycle and difficulty in paying bills is well known, that of modernisation work and following energy advice workshops still requires confirmation.
As for mobility, it is clear that there is little correlation between transport choices and truly economic thinking. Based on the evidence, households have little margin for manoeuvre considering the strong economic constraints on them and movements that cannot be reduced.

KEY WORDS: lifestyle, energy, domestic consumption, mobility.

Fuel poverty: The contribution sociology might play in facing the problem.

Ilaria BERETTA (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart)

Fuel poverty is a relatively new subject in European political agendas. With the exception of Great Britain, which has been aware of the problem for about thirty years (Walker, Day, 2012), it is only recently that other countries have started to face the matter (among others, Brunner et al., 2012; Dubois, 2012; Tirado Herrero and Ürge – Vorsatz, 2010). Within the European Union furthermore, over recent years, with the annexation of the Eastern-European countries and the serious problem of the bad energy performance which, on average, distinguishes its buildings (World Bank, 2000; Ürge – Vorsatz et al., 2006; Buzar, 2007; Boardman, 2010), the issue is gaining in importance. We are instead not aware that, in the USA, China, the Russian Federation and in developing countries this issue is being substantially addressed (Healy, 2004; Buzar, 2007; Morgan, 2008, EPEE project, 2009).
From a conceptual viewpoint, the specific topic of ‘fuel poverty’ can be traced back to the more general problem of social inequality and the distribution effects of policies which, in recent years have been of great interest in OECD Countries and in the European Union (European Commission, 2010; European Commission European Parliament, Club of Rome, OECD, WWF, 2009; OECD, 2011, 2011b; Sen, 1997; Stiglitz et al. 2009). The policies implemented thus far nevertheless have been fragmentary and not specifically directed towards solving the problem in question.
The dual aims of this paper are (a) to contribute to raising the awareness about the problem, currently only studied by a small circle of experts; (b) to reflect upon the role Sociology could play in facing the fuel poverty.
The paper will be substantially split into three parts. To start with, a first illustration of the defining question, considering that at European level an agreement has not yet been reached as regards the terminology to be used (fuel poverty or energy poverty?), nor as regards the precise meaning of the expression.
Subsequently, some details will be provided as regards just how widespread the phenomenon is in Europe and on the instruments currently being used to overcome it.
Finally, a few considerations will be made on what contribution the sociological discipline could give both to finding an ample and inclusive terminological definition and to identifying the most effective solutions to the problem.

social inequities, distributive effects, energy efficiency, liveability of buildings, urban sustainability.

When energy consumption weakens households.

Mireille BOULEAU (Urban Planning Institute of Ile-de-France)
LUCILE METTETAL ( Urban Planning Institute of Ile-de-France)

It is widely believed that urban sprawl does not only consume precious land resources, but is also largely responsible for the high costs of infrastructure and high energy use.
It has been demonstrated that low-density areas are the urban places where energy consumption per capita is the most important. In terms of daily mobility, there is a difference of one to three, for a person comparable in terms of age and income, between an inner-city resident and an outer-suburban one.
So, households living in outer suburbs are more sensitive to fuel price increases. Their “oil vulnerability” is higher. Economic pressures may have led to important changes in the suburban way of life.
The first question is: “Who” are the social groups that are the most concerned with the energy issue?” The second question is: “How do people tackle this issue?’. What are the main consequences on mobility and housing?
At first, a statistical analysis shows a wide range of different populations which are more or less interlaced. Different profiles of households, but territories which seem to accumulate signs of fragility and to draw a new geographic map where new public action could be implemented.
A qualitative survey has completed this approach. Energy behaviour regarding housing and mobility has been studied in parallel. The results of this survey makes it possible to estimate the capacity of households to change their energy behaviour as far as mobility and housing are concerned and to anticipate what residential strategies households opt for to cope with energy constraints. This survey reveals and puts forward the difficulties met with, mainly by owner-occupiers of their houses. Indeed, to keep their house, they adopt restrictive but also ingenious and complex strategies. This sophisticated balance must not and cannot be affected in any way as the risk of social toppling over is always present.
Owner-occupiers, often mixed up with a privileged class, escape public aid alerts. The cost of suburban or rural home ownership can become difficult to bear for modest households, when the price for their chosen way of life was unforeseen.

KEY WORDS: modest owners, energy effort, restrictions, strategies, skills.

Analysis of individual strategies of households in fuel poverty in their homes. Testimonials and deciphering.

Isolde DEVALIERE (Departemental CTSB/Economy and Human Sciences)

The sociological survey conducted CSTB for PREBAT (2007-2010) allowed to identify different strategies of warming : a constant comfort even if it means getting into debt, looking for a rough comfort or stopping gas or electric heating. We suggest to highlight the domestic practices of households.
We study the representations about the cost of energy, the practices of cooking, the uses of the water and the practices of aeration and venting which can damage the quality of the indoor air quality. Finally we identify the strategies of each one to find a precarious balance between thermic comfort and budget management and palliative tactics against cold and dampness.
We propose to illustrate the consequences of fuel poverty on elderly in search of comfort, on children, on the relations between households and their owners. Finally we shall study which are value systems to prove restrictive practices of consumption, the individual standards and the representations of the thermal comfort considered as a luxury or a necessity, generated by a cultural heritage, singular residential trajectory and often forced installation.

KEY WORDS: fuel poverty, domestic practices, individual strategies, thermal discomfort, heating deprivation.

Quand l’énergie vient à manquer » : une fiction pour diffuser des résultats de recherche sociologique sur la précarité énergétique en milieu rural.


In order to disseminate the results of sociological researches conducted by EDF-R&D in the field of fuel poverty, we made a short fiction film.
This film was designed in order to allow us to disseminate information in a striking, original way, both inside and outside EDF. We did also use it as an experimental tool, in order to get reactions from some fuel poor persons.
The script of this fiction has been written together with about 20 people working in EDF, including sociologists, doctors, or solidarity correspondents. The initial idea was to focus on rural fuel poors, in order to dispel stereotypes about fuel poors all living in urban environment, and to take transportation problems, which are particularly crucial in this places into account.
We focused on a neocountry family, and introduced the other types of fuel poverty situations through the interactions the family had with its environment.
The film shows how energy problems can push people into poverty, and features a series of mechanisms such as abstinence from heating, loneliness of rural fuel poor, specific problems for people who can’t benefit from social assistance because they are just over the thresholds, problems to invest for energy efficient equipments, stigma refusal, non take-up etc.
After the film, we give some information about fuel poverty in order to put what has been shown in the fiction in perspective with facts and figures.
We propose to present the film and to say a few words about the way it is used, inside and outside EDF. We may also speak about the experimental using on this film during fuel poors focus groups.

KEY WORDS: fiction, fuel poverty, sociology, film, rural areas.

Energy sobriety in relation to the restriction of energy consumption: the case of households affected by fuel poverty.

Sihame HINI (University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines/REEDS)
Jean-Marc DOUGUET (University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines /REEDS)

Energy sobriety is one of the major stakes in energy transition. To establish energy frugality, it will be necessary to work on the innovations and the efficiency of materials on the one hand but it is also necessary to work on the change of behavior and to revolutionize modes of living on the other hand. Often we handle this issue in a very restricted way, for many, energy sobriety is limited only to saving and to reducing household consumption. Nevertheless, there is a class of population which hardly consumes any energy, most of the households affected by energy precariousness take the path of limitation and are obliged to make a choice between rent and/or food on one side, and energy consumption on the other. Initiatives towards energy sobriety must take into account this category of households which are in a situation of extreme vulnerability and which do not however consume enough to have an adequately life.
The control of energy cannot always rely exclusively on reduction. In this article and through a systematic method we are going to show that energy consumption must reflect utility. The differences at the level of the socioeconomic classes, of the thermal quality of buildings as well as the organization of every household make some consumption a stake in injustice, equity needs to be at the heart of energy sobriety and so that the latter may be instituted, we have to establish a table of parameters as well as a reference threshold of consumption which can take the place of the rate of energy effort and work with the various systems bound to the household.
The objective of this article is to work at first on the clarification of the definition of energy sobriety in order to then consider disparities of consumption and to find a balance between utility of energy consumption and energy expenditure.

KEY WORDS: energy sobriety, energy restraint, energy management, equity, utility of consumption.

Energy consumption of households in fuel poverty: stresses and resistances.

Elsa LAGIER (CePeD ; GDF Suez/CRIGEN ; DynamE)

The phenomena of fuel poverty catch more and more attention of both public and private institutions in a context of a strong injunction towards energy savings and increasing energy costs. Thus, the Department of Environmental and Social Responsibility at GDF Suez tries to adapt its offerings to the most vulnerable clients, while supporting them in a dynamic of control of their consumption.
The tools implemented seek to take into account the complexity of the logic at work in the way households consume energy in the domestic sphere. This complexity has been enlighten by a sociological study, based on a qualitative methodology, that I conducted in 2014 for the CRIGEN (GDF Suez). Fifteen household interviews in their homes, allowed to examine the variety of energy practices by taking in account their objective social status and the way they experience it subjectively. This was to try to understand the trade-offs made in the consumption choices, starting from this observation: their energy practices don’t follow the model of homo economicus; the most vulnerable ones are not the most efficient savers. How can we understand that the aim of their practices isn’t always to reduce bills? What are the other rationalities at work?
Using examples, I propose to interpret the energy practices of some households as forms of “resistance” guided by the preservation of a positive image of themselves and an autonomy, which are undermined by stresses, injunctions and stigmatization that they have to face.
Access to energy reveal the dynamics of social inequalities. The fuel poor are at the bottom of the social hierarchy and build their energy practices in response to this position, whether it is to claim for social assistance perceived as legitimate, to criticize the norms set by others, to preserve comfort by « over-consumption », etc.

KEY WORDS: fuel poverty, energy practices, social norms, resistances, stigmatization.

Fuel poverty: educative measures for proper fuel consumption behaviour as an inadequate response to this social issue.

Johanna LEES (Norbert Elias Center)

Situated at the confluence of housing policies, the challenges of sustainable development, the city and social issues, fuel poverty is considered a social problem and, as such, is an item on the political agenda in France today. In this paper we will analyse the various measures designed to inculcate proper fuel consumption behaviour and will seek to establish how these measures, from a social standpoint, can appear to be paradoxical or out of phase.
Secondly this paper will try to show how these measures aimed at the most deprived contribute to a form of modern hygienics. Finally it will aim at shedding light on how these measures are perceived by those who are involved in them (social workers and target population) and, beyond that, on to what extent they are inadequate given the material living conditions of the latter.

KEY WORDS: fuel poverty, hygienics, energy, consumption, comfort, rundown housing.

Representing the situations of fuel poverty.

Stéphanie LACOMBE (freelance photographer)

The communication will present a series of high-quality photographs , together with a sociological insight on a range of fuel poverty situations. The series of chosen situations will expose the living conditions of people affected by fuel poverty , as well as the way they adapt to it. The communication is based on interviews highlighting the effects of fuel poverty on everyday life, and on a photographic approach producing telling representations of these situations. The aim is to show people coping with comfortless housing conditions, and to make tangible how they experience and adapt to these situations, in which the heating failure induces a cascade of daily difficulties.

KEY WORDS: fuel poverty, poor housing, sociology, photography, representations.

« Being frugal », a social practice : cultural-proof energy savings.

Fanny PARISE (Paris Descartes University ; Anthropologist freelance ; Solidar’Energie)

Fuel poverty is not unique. It is plural. Correlated to the diversity of inhabitants practice, enter the « meaning » equal to develop a « state of play » of the diversity of inhabitants practices MDE practices.
Houshold energy practices represent a socio-cultural construction. The ethnographic observation of in situ uses of inhabitants sheds light on the lifestyles, beliefs and material constraints which must deal with individuals. Partial answers already exista cross territories to fight against fuel poverty, such as installing « smart » meters in social homes where residents are accompanied by local structures that transmit « good practices MDE » through communication media or « energy advice ». Our fieldwork shows that the change of inhabitants practice requires not only learning « more efficient » practices, but also their integration within a system of values that makes « sens » for the individual.
Our work put into perspective the holistic dimension of energy-saving practices. Hypotheses emerginf field interviews and observations made in the Rhône-Alpes region ans Paris Petite-Couronne : turn off the light when leaving a room, turn up the heat until it reaches a satisfactory level of comfort, choose the type electrical household appliances and use practices is a social act, a symbolic act. These practices are socially constructed and situated fit within a set of contextual, environmental and physical constraints. Various factors affect household energy practices such as tenure (tenant, owner, home resident), occupancy (single person or household), place of residence (city center, suburban, country), the type of habitat (habitat individually, through, dense, light), the age of housing and building standards (RT 2005-2012, BBC), but also the type energy equipment housing, the level of seniority and the ernergy class of objects in the home, the level of knowledge of « good energy practices », the actual practices of users and the sociability of the individual (isolated, socialized, engaged). At the micro-individual level, other factors also have an impact on the energy practices of the people, such as physical or psychological state of the individual life cycles (be of working age, being retired, habe a daily activity (outside or inside the home) and economic ressources (expenditure constraints, rest-to-live).
The collective reflection Solidar’Energie, which values the fight against energy poverty at the territorial level, questions the diversity of energy practices to provide a comprehensive response and support land management tool of fuel poverty. Through its cross-cutting approach that mobilizes collective sociology of energy as possible understanding of issues lever, customs and practices of energy.

KEY WORDS: energy saving, culture, sense, diversity, vulnerability.

SLIME, local program to identify households living in fuel poverty.


CLER has developed SLIME program (Local Services of intervention for energy conservation), based on the « Socio-technical compared analysis of programs reducing fioul poverty and construction of targeted intervention strategies » , a study produced under the ADEME-PREBAT PUCA program. The program aims at identifying massively households living in fuel poverty and exists in twenty-four local territories in France.
SLIME is a unique local desk, taking care of all energy insecurity, regardless of the occupancy status of households. It aims to:
- centralize to a single platform (physical and / or telephone) reports of poor households who are experiencing difficulties related to energy in their homes
- achieve a socio-technical diagnosis to household home to understand the situation, install small energy-saving equipments
- encourage all players in the area able to offer sustainable solutions to households, to know, dialogue and organize around this platform, in order to guide families to the most suitable solutions of action
Initial estimatations (based on 317 households and will be updated early 2015) show that two-thirds of households are identified by by social workers. After one or two visits, they are oriented to a renovation solution and to numerous and various organizations (social, energy, budgetary support …).
In 2013 and 2014, nearly 4,000 visits were scheduled in households living in fuel poverty. In 2015 an additional 3,000 households will benefit from this device.

KEY WORDS: fuel poverty, households visit, territorial organization, households identification, local authorities.