Dr Harriet Thomson BA, MRes, PhD

Dr Harriet Thomson

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Associate Professor in Global Social Policy and Sociology
College Lead for Postgraduate Taught (PGT) 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 research and social science. Her research interests broadly concern the role of public policy and policymaking processes in shaping energy systems, 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 her 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 her 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 she has been awarded in excess of £4.8 million in research funding from the European Commission, British Council, GCRF, and other sources.

Dr Thomson’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 her 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 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. Between 2016-2020, she was the founding Project Manager of the European Commission’s EU Energy Poverty Observatory, which involved defining a universal set of monitoring indicators, creating the world’s largest evidence base, and directly supporting policy-makers in implementing new legislative measures to tackle energy poverty. She is currently PI and Co-I on a range of research projects across Europe and Latin America, including as Principal Investigator of the Global Challenges Research Fund project ‘Energy Solidarity in Latin America’.

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) in 2018 and 2019 and shortlisted for ‘Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences' at the Times Higher Education Awards in 2021.

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


  • 2021: Shortlisted for ‘Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences', Times Higher Education Awards
  • 2021: Highly Commended, Making a Difference Awards, University of Manchester
  • 2018 and 2019: 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

  • 2021-2024: Horizon 2020, €2m, Community Energy for Energy Solidarity (CEES) (Co-I).
  • 2021-2023:  Social Policy Association, £3,000, Climate Justice and Social Policy Group (CUSP) (Founding member and Co-I).
  • 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).
  • 2020-2022: British Council – Newton Fund, £216,464 for ‘Capabilities-led energy poverty alleviation via innovative community solutions (CaPAS)’ (Project Investigator).
  • 2017 – 2022: European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) scheme, ca. €520,000 (Co-I and lead of Work Package 2: Implementation – Developing an operational framework)

Completed projects

  • 2020: UoB IGI 'Research Co-Design sandpits', £13,590, for ‘Understanding and mitigating the domestic energy impacts of COVID-19 in Mexico’.
  • 2020-2021: UoB ESRC IAA, £8,383 for ‘Co-constructing a Finnish Energy Observatory’.
  • 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).
  • 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)
  • 2016: Eaga Charitable Trust, ca. £10,000, to host a pan-EU energy poverty workshop (PI)
  • 2013: Eaga Charitable Trust, £4,726, for 'Fuel poverty measurement in Europe', which 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.


Edited volume

  1. Simcock, N., Thomson, H., Petrova, S., and Bouzarovski, S. (eds). (2018). Energy Poverty and Vulnerability: A Global Perspective. Oxford: Routledge.

Refereed journal articles

  1. Hesselman, M., Varo, A., Guyet, R., and Thomson, H. (2021) Energy poverty in the COVID-19 era: Mapping global responses in light of momentum for the right to energy. Energy Research & Social Science, 81, 102246.
  2. Sareen, S., Thomson, H., Tirado Herrero, S., Gouveia, J.P., Lippert, I., and Lis, A. (2020) European energy poverty metrics: Scales, prospects and limits. Global Transitions, 2: 26-36.
  3. Thomson, H., Simcock, N., Bouzarovski, S., and Petrova, S. (2019) Energy poverty and indoor cooling: an overlooked issue in Europe. Energy and Buildings, 196(1): 21-29.
  4. Snell, C., Lambie-Mumford, H., and Thomson, H. (2018) Is there evidence of households making a heat or eat trade off in the UK? Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 26(2): 225-243.
  5. 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, 26(7): 879-901.
  6. Liddell, C., Morris, C., Thomson, H., and Guiney, C. (2016) Excess winter deaths in 32 European countries: a critical review of methods. Journal of Public Health, 38(4), 806-814.
  7. Snell, C., Bevan, M., and Thomson, H. (2015) Justice, fuel poverty and disabled people in England. Energy Research & Social Science, 10: 123–132.

View all publications in research portal