School of Sociology and Social Policy Research Seminar: Energy poverty and the governance of crisis

We are delighted to welcome Catherine Butler (University of Exeter) to deliver the School Research Seminar.

Abstract: Energy poverty has long been among the most pressing concerns faced by people around the world. Energy services underpin many of our basic daily needs and are integral in the processes through which wider poverty is perpetuated.  

Recent increases in the global prices of energy resources combine with many years of austerity and depressed wages to deepen energy poverty, with the issues affecting the lives of many more people than ever before. Yet the governance response has been one that casts energy poverty as a temporally bounded crisis newly emerging as prices escalate. This obscures recognition of the many processes and policies that have contributed to ever greater requirements for energy overtime and the seeming reluctance to embrace possibilities for long term change.  

In this talk I introduce analysis from my recent book, Energy Poverty, Practice, and Policy (2022, Palgrave Macmillan), examining the ways that welfare policy constitutes needs for energy use in multiple ways, from centralisation of physical services to digitalisation, while simultaneously undermining people’s abilities to afford energy with cuts to income and sanctions. Drawing on thinking about the construction of crisis, I reflect on the book’s conclusions about how to address energy poverty considering current and ongoing governance responses.  

About Dr Catherine Butler

Dr Catherine Butler is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at University of Exeter. Her research centres around analysis of environmental governance processes with focus on the intersections between policy, politics, and everyday life.  

She is currently co-investigator on two projects: The British Academy funded project Energy for Wellbeing; and the Wellcome Trust funded project Evaluating Health Impacts of Climate Adaptation Strategies. She is convenor of the British Sociological Association Climate Change study group and a Committee Member of the Royal Geographical Society Energy Geographies Research Group.  

Her recently completed EPSRC Project looked at the relations between welfare and energy policy, exploring the implications for lived experiences of energy poverty. This forms the focus of her new book, Energy Poverty, Practice, and Policy, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2022.   

Catherine’s book is open access and can be read and downloaded here 

How to join the research seminar

The event will be held on Zoom, access the meeting via the link and joining details below: 

Join Zoom Meeting 

Meeting ID: 832 3441 7878 

Passcode: 00Yzx+ 

No booking required.