Fuel Poverty in New Zealand — Implications for Policy

Author: McKague, Fathimath

Date: 2019

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Thesis

Link to this item using this URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/9370

University of Otago


Fuel poverty, or the inability to access or afford energy, impacts on the capabilities of households to attain a socially and materially needed level of energy services to participate in society. Fuel poverty is a significant social, economic, environmental and public health problem in New Zealand, affecting an estimated one in four households. The impacts of fuel poverty on the quality of life of households are manifested through people suffering from poor health due to inadequately heated housing, and people suffering deprivation in other areas of their lives. Several factors contribute to the relatively high levels of fuel poverty among New Zealand households --- energy inefficient housing stock, rising residential fuel prices, low income, and social and behavioural factors. Despite this, the New Zealand government has been slow to respond to fuel poverty, with policies advocating for market led mechanisms over state interventions. Current policies are reactive, failing to find long-term solutions to this phenomenon. Current interventions have not factored in the voices of the fuel poor - what it actually means to live in fuel poverty in New Zealand. There are four original contributions to knowledge made by this thesis. Firstly, this thesis offers a nuanced understanding of fuel poverty in Dunedin, New Zealand, using the energy cultures framework as a holistic outlook for looking at the drivers of energy behaviour and consumption choices. Secondly, it presents one of the first in-depth analysis of lived experiences of fuel poverty in New Zealand, exploring the motivation, norms and practices that shape energy use. The current measures used in New Zealand for targeting fuel poverty are critically analysed, and new indicators are proposed based on the findings from this study. Third, taking into account the limitations of the Energy Cultures Framework, an expanded conceptual framework is presented which incorporates elements of the energy cultures, as well as adding family contexts and circumstance variables which may impact on fuel poverty. This new framework, called the Life-cycle based energy cultures framework, would allow the wider elements of fuel poverty, such as the social process and family needs, to be captured more comprehensively. The final contribution is a policy analysis of fuel poverty in New Zealand, with a critical review of existing measures, followed by proposing three policy scenarios for tackling fuel poverty in New Zealand. A diverse methodological approach is taken in this thesis; synthesising existing literature, conducting a detailed qualitative analysis, incorporating policy evaluation, and a comprehensive stakeholder engagement to inform policy recommendations for mitigating fuel poverty. The findings of this thesis will provide useful insights and evidence to broaden the existing focus on insulation as a solution to fuel poverty, to looking at energy as an equitable service for all households and devising targeted interventions. Increased government investment and involvement, along with stronger political commitment and partnership with community and businesses are required if policies are to effectively decrease fuel poverty in New Zealand.

Subjects: fuel poverty, energy poverty, energy policy, policy analysis

Citation: ["McKague, F. (2019). Fuel Poverty in New Zealand — Implications for Policy (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10523/9370"]

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