Study examines everyday energy challenges of one of Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas

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A NEW study led by the University of Stirling is seeking to understand the everyday energy difficulties caused by fuel poverty to one of Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas.

The project will engage communities in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, on the challenges of fuel poverty and its impact on household decision-making, health, energy behaviours, mobility and access to local services.

It will support planning around energy provision and provide a robust evidence base to inform future activity associated with the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal – a £214 million investment in the future of the region.

Dr Jennifer Dickie, Lecturer in Environmental Geography at Stirling, who is leading the project, commented on it: “The overarching aim of this project is to understand the everyday energy challenges facing disadvantaged communities and explore – through engagement, collaboration and innovative co-creation – pathways towards a healthier, wealthier and greener future for local people.”

The study will focus on southern and eastern Alloa and will engage with local community members from a range of third sector organisations but primarily through the Hawkhill Community Association, a key partner in the project.

The team will lead fun and interactive activities – co-designed with The Innovation School from the Glasgow School of Art and project partners Clackmannanshire Council, Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface, the City Region Deal Programme Office and the British Geological Survey, to explore how energy should be used, generated and shared in Clackmannanshire.

An exhibition will travel around a number of locations, including the University of Stirling and local community centres in May to share the findings of the project.

Dr Dickie added: “The project has a number of objectives, including seeking to understand what energy use means to participants in their daily lives and the challenges and aspirations in relation to current and future energy use.

“It will also support the community in setting a direction of travel and identify key priorities and engage the wider community in discussion around current and future energy use and gather feedback.

“This offers an unprecedented opportunity for local communities, particularly those who face inequalities and significant poverty, to share their expert local knowledge or ‘social intelligence’ and aspirations to drive much needed, locally appropriate positive change.”

The project is funded under the UK Research and Innovation Citizen Science Exploration Grants and Enhancing Place-Based Partnerships awards.

The programme is funding 53 projects, worth £1.4 million, to enable members of the public to actively contribute to research and innovation projects that affect their lives.

Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement at UK Research and Innovation, said: “This is one of 53 pilot projects that we have funded, all using exciting ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work.

“In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.”