Energy Vulnerability


Energy systems also produce  insecurities, sometimes from a lack of access and sometimes due to the cost of energy  (Jessel et al., 2019; Middlemiss & Gillard, 2015; Thomson et al., 2019). Not being able to meet monthly energy expenses not only burdens families’ incomes but their health (Jessel et al., 2019; Middlemiss & Gillard, 2015; Thomson et al., 2019). Inadequate indoor environments can negatively affect standard health and safety, including respiratory and circulatory chronic illnesses (Jessel et al., 2019; Liddell & Morris, 2010; Middlemiss & Gillard, 2015; Thomson et al., 2019). In fact, many hospital admissions analyzed by Liddell & Morris (2010) were traced back to locations and households that were energy vulnerable. Some ways to address energy vulnerability would be to retrofit the homes of the energy vulnerable populations (Liddell & Morris, 2010), through programs such as WAP.

Just as much as poor health is a product of energy vulnerability, ill-health can also intensify energy vulnerability (Jessel et al., 2019; Middlemiss & Gillard, 2015). More specifically, some health conditions require families to use more energy to keep households at comfortable living conditions and lacking ability to sustain healthy indoor environments can significantly impair conducting day-to-day activities for energy vulnerable residents (Middlesmiss & Gillard, 2015; Thomson et al., 2019). Where the government does not recognize health problems and does not aid those who need assistance, families’ energy vulnerability and health conditions may worsen (Middlemiss & Gillard, 2015). From the foregoing, we could ask: How have extant energy systems impacted different populations’ ability to avoid or fight off a COVID-19 infection? How have energy-system disruptions and responses related to COVID-19 created or exacerbated other bodily vulnerabilities? (How) Are these embodied inequalities naturalized, racialized, homogenized/masked/erased, and/or politicized?  What is lost with the loss of access to public spaces and buildings?  What, for example, will substitute for public cooling centers in extreme heat events or for hurricane shelters?


Creative Commons Licence

Contributed date

May 20, 2020 - 1:04pm

Critical Commentary

This text discusses the literature at the intersection of energy vulnerability and the COVID-19 pandemic.