Revealing hidden energy poverty in Hong Kong: a multi-dimensional framework for examining and understanding energy poverty

Annie On ni Yip, Daphne Ngar-yin MAH*, Lachlan B. BARBER

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Energy poverty and other social aspects of energy are an important but under-researched area in the sustainability literature. This article challenges the effectiveness of the traditional expenditure-based 10%-income indicator in reflecting the nature and complexity of energy poverty, with particular reference to a case study in Hong Kong. To advance the energy poverty literature, this study proposes a multi-dimensional framework to conceptualise the complex linkages between vulnerability factors, impacts, and responses of energy-poor households. Based on analysis of five in-depth household case studies and 14 semi-structured interviews, three main findings are presented. First, the proposed integrated framework reveals that households in the Hong Kong context exposed to multiple vulnerability factors adopted various responses to energy poverty challenges. Second, the traditional expenditure-based indicator is not effective in identifying energy poor households. Most of the interviewed households did not reach the 10% income expenditure line but their lived experience suggests that they are energy poor. Household under-consumption of energy as a survival mechanism to cope with energy poverty vulnerabilities is a critical process through which households fall into “hidden” energy poverty. Thirdly, household responses to energy poverty impacted health, learning environment, family relationships, and dignity. These findings suggest that future policy responses to energy poverty should pay more attention to non-economic indicators, in particular households’ lived experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-491
Number of pages19
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

User-Defined Keywords

  • Energy poverty
  • households' lived experiences
  • multi-dimensional framework
  • non-economic indicators


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