Customers in vulnerable situations and community resilience: A cross-utility study

Customers in vulnerable situations and community resilience: A cross-utility study

Utility networks are responsible for ensuring that communities have access to safe and efficient utility (gas, electricity, water and communications) supplies. As the utility networks prepare for a challenging energy systems transition, a comprehensive and consistent approach to ensuring community resilience will be required to safeguard vulnerable individuals and communities.

To respond to this challenge, National Energy Action (NEA) worked with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) to undertake a cross-utility review that:

  • Identifies how we currently understand vulnerability.
  • Forecasts short-term and long-term risks to community and customer resilience, including the energy justice implications associated with the low-carbon transition.
  • Identifies current network activity to support customers and communities.
  • Makes recommendations to ensure that networks are equipped to provide the most appropriate support for vulnerable members of society during the energy systems transition.

The report:

  1. Examines how vulnerability is conceptualised as complex, multifaceted, and situational, and as relating to individual characteristics, circumstances, and capabilities as well as structural and market-based inequalities. It highlights the need to be aware of intersectionality and protected characteristics when considering vulnerability and service design.
  2. Discusses common themes of detriment or harm that customers in vulnerable situations may be at risk of experiencing within the current energy/utility system (according to the themes of affordability, communications/accessibility, ‘missing out’, and safety detriment).
  3. Explores how possible changes to future energy systems during the low-carbon transition may engender customer vulnerability and risk of detriment in different and complex ways. It does so by forecasting potential future energy system risks but also examining insights and learnings around vulnerability and support requirements from recent, unanticipated events (Covid 19 pandemic, energy and cost of living crises, and extreme weather events).
  4. Describes the ways in which some utility stakeholders have begun to take a ‘vulnerability first’ approach to strategic planning and operational delivery.
  5. Provides insight as to the kind of strategies and services that utilities and their partners should take into account when identifying, empowering, and providing support to customers in vulnerable situations (according to the themes of debt and affordability; communications and accessibility; support for all; and personal safety)
  6. Presents six best practice guidelines for utility-related companies, regulators and policymakers for understanding, identifying and supporting customers in vulnerable situations both now and in the future


CVS and Community Resilience - Executive Summary
Download the report

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