Dr Harriet Thomson BA, MRes, PhD

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Associate Professor in Global Social Policy and Sociology
Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes

Contact details

School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Dr Harriet Thomson is an award-winning interdisciplinary academic with world leading expertise in energy poverty. Her research interests broadly concern the role of public policy and policymaking processes, structural inequalities in the distribution of housing and access to affordable and clean forms of energy, health and wellbeing outcomes, and indicators for measuring the complex realities of energy poverty. These are themes that carry through to Harriet's research-led teaching, both in her home institution, and abroad as a visiting lecturer.

Conducting transformative policy-relevant research and doing so in a participatory and holistic manner are core elements of Harriet's research ethos. To achieve this, she has consistently worked across disciplines and sectors to forge collaborations and international networks, comprising policymakers, regulators, local communities, and other key stakeholders. These efforts have resulted in several active international consortium projects in Europe and across Latin America, and to date Harriet has been awarded in excess of £2.9 million in research funding from the European Commission, British Council, GCRF, and other sources.

Harriet's research outputs have been used to influence the framing of policy approaches to address energy poverty worldwide, including the European Commission’s Clean Energy for all Europeans package, and more recently, the launch of a monitoring observatory in Mexico. The significant policy impacts of her research were recognised by the ESRC, who awarded Harriet an Outstanding Early Career Impact prize in 2017. 


  • PhD Social Policy, University of York, 2015
  • MRes Social Policy (Distinction), University of York, 2011
  • PG Cert. in Higher Education (Distinction), University of Birmingham, 2018
  • BA (Hons) Social Policy (1st Class), University of York, 2010


Before joining Birmingham in September 2017, Harriet held research positions at the Universities of Manchester, Ulster, and York, working on a diverse portfolio of projects. Harriet also has practical experience working at an energy service company (ESCO) project managing local renewable energy grant schemes.

She is actively involved with policymaking on energy and social issues, and has influenced the development and framing of new policy approaches to address energy poverty worldwide. She is PI and Co-I on a range of research projects across Europe and Latin America, including as Co-Investigator and Project Manager of the European Commission funded EU Energy Poverty Observatory, which involves directly supporting policy-makers in implementing new legislative measures to tackle energy poverty.

The significant policy impacts of her research have been recognised by the ESRC, who awarded her the 2017 Celebrating Impact Prize (Early Career category). She was later awarded the Founders’ Award for Outstanding Early-Career Academic by the College of Social Sciences (University of Birmingham), and shortlisted for the University of Birmingham Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Research Impact in 2018.

In 2019, Nature chose Harriet as their first interviewee for a new Behavioural & Social Science platform.


Harriet teaches across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules, with a focus on policymaking processes, and energy policy.

Since 2018, Harriet has been a Visiting Lecturer at the Institute for Renewable Energy, National Autonomous University of Mexico, focusing on interdisciplinary approaches, and the social aspects of energy.

Postgraduate supervision

Harriet is interested in supervising PhD projects that relate to her core research interests.


Research interests

  • Comparative social policy
  • Energy poverty
  • Participatory research methods
  • Latin American and European energy policy
  • Climate change
  • Domestic energy efficiency
  • Institutional theory


  • 2018: College of Social Sciences (University of Birmingham) Founders’ Award for Outstanding Early-Career Academic
  • 2017: Winner of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize in the Outstanding Early Career Impact category

 Current projects

  • 2020-2021: British Council – Newton Fund, £216,464 for ‘Capabilities-led energy poverty alleviation via innovative community solutions (CaPAS)’ (Project Investigator).
  • 2020-2023: Global Challenges Research Fund, £1.3m for ‘Energy Solidarity in Latin America: generating inclusive knowledge and governance to address energy vulnerability and energy systems resilience (ESLatinA) (Project Investigator).
  • 2019: British Council Higher Education Alliances grant, £6,500, for ‘Embedding action research in energy teaching to foster inclusive knowledge societies in Oaxaca’ (Project Investigator).
  • 2017 – 2021: European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) scheme, ca. €520,000 (CO-I and lead of Work Package 2: Implementation – Developing an operational framework)
  • 2016-2020: ‘EU Energy Poverty Observatory’, €813,000 from the European Commission to support national policy-makers in addressing energy poverty (CO-I and Project Manager)

Completed projects

  • 2016: Grant from Eaga Charitable Trust, ca. £10,000, to host a pan-EU energy poverty workshop (PI)
  • 2013: 'Fuel poverty measurement in Europe', £4,726 from Eaga Charitable Trust, this involved a pilot survey in eight EU Member States, and production of a trilingual toolkit for key stakeholders (PI)

Other activities

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Authority
  • Editorial Board member of Social Policy & Society
  • Honorary Research Fellow, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, September 2017 – Present
  • Associate Editor, Energy Research and Social Science, April 2015 – July 2018
  • Member of the Social Policy Association
  • Founder and Managing Editor of the EU Fuel Poverty Network, 2011-2018, which was a leading website with more than 30,000 visitors worldwide, and guest articles written by over 30 key stakeholders.


Recent publications


Sareen, S, Thomson, H, Tirado-Herrero, S, Gouveia, JP, Lippert, I & Lis, A 2020, 'European energy poverty metrics: scales, prospects and limits', Global Transitions, vol. 2, pp. 26-36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.glt.2020.01.003

Thomson, H 2020, 'Quantification beyond expenditure', Nature Energy. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-00682-9

Thomson, H, Simcock, N, Bouzarovski, S & Petrova, S 2019, 'Energy poverty and indoor cooling: an overlooked issue in Europe', Energy and Buildings, vol. 196, pp. 21-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enbuild.2019.05.014

Snell, C, Lambie-Mumford, H & Thomson, H 2018, 'Is there evidence of households making a heat or eat trade off in the UK?', Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 225-243. https://doi.org/10.1332/175982718X15200701225205

Bouzarovski, S & Thomson, H 2017, 'Energy Vulnerability in the Grain of the City: Toward Neighborhood Typologies of Material Deprivation', Annals of the American Association of Geographers, vol. 108, no. 3, pp. 695-717. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2017.1373624

Thomson, H, Snell, C & Bouzarovski, S 2017, 'Health, well-being and energy poverty in Europe: A comparative study of 32 European countries', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 6, 584. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14060584

Thomson, H, Bouzarovski, S & Snell, C 2017, 'Rethinking the measurement of energy poverty in Europe: A critical analysis of indicators and data', Indoor and Built Environment, vol. 26, no. 7, pp. 879-901. https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326X17699260

Liddell, C, Morris, C, Thomson, H & Guiney, C 2016, 'Excess winter deaths in 30 European countries 1980-2013: A critical review of methods', Journal of Public Health (United Kingdom), vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 806-814. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdv184

Thomson, H 2016, 'Fuel poverty in the European Union: a concept in need of definition?', People, Place and Policy Online, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 5-24. https://doi.org/10.3351/ppp.0010.0001.0002

Snell, C, Bevan, M & Thomson, H 2015, 'Justice, fuel poverty and disabled people in England', Energy Research and Social Science, vol. 10, pp. 123-132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2015.07.012

Thomson, H & Liddell, C 2015, 'The suitability of wood pellet heating for domestic households: A review of literature', Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 42, pp. 1362-1369. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2014.11.009

Snell, C, Bevan, M & Thomson, H 2015, 'Welfare reform, disabled people and fuel poverty', Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 229-244. https://doi.org/10.1332/175982715X14349632097764

Thomson, H & Snell, C 2013, 'Quantifying the prevalence of fuel poverty across the European Union', Energy Policy, vol. 52, pp. 563-572. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2012.10.009


Snell, C & Thomson, H 2013, Reconciling fuel poverty and climate change policy under the Coalition government: Green Deal or no deal? in Social Policy Review 25: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2013. Policy Press, pp. 23-45.

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