Rose Chard, a doctoral student in the Geography and Environment pathway at Lancaster UniversityMy CASE studentship is part of the EDF R&D ECLEER Programme (which is a network of researchers based in France led by EDF the energy company), with an immediate link to a project between four UK universities and EDF R&D on thermal comfort, housing and older people.

My PhD explores how community organisations tackle fuel poverty in England, with a specific focus on older households. My methodology has included analysing national energy policy, observing community organisations and interviewing older residents about their everyday lives.

Whilst the UK has a long history of policy on fuel poverty, other countries are also identifying it as an issue and are trying to find ways to deal with it. As energy systems and the way they’re governed varies, solutions also vary. Looking at the experience of other countries helps to reflect on our own situation in the UK.

There are a group of researchers within EDF R&D which are exploring fuel poverty across Europe and in France specifically. I have attended conferences and workshops with them, giving me the chance to present my own work as well as to learn about theirs. This has helped me to stand back and question my own critique of the UK context, how I have researched it and the conclusions and recommendations I will put forward in my own thesis. The collaboration has opened up the range of people I can call ‘colleagues’ and that form part of my scholarly community. Identifying such a community has enabled me to ask for advice, disseminate my conclusions and learn about new work in the field by other researchers of fuel poverty in a way I would not have otherwise been able to.

Doing a PhD can be a lonely experience so attending workshops and seeing familiar faces in my field has been really important for giving me a sense of purpose and providing inspiration from those who also work on the same topics. More practically, for me and many academics, working with other researchers and funders is an essential part of undertaking research at any level. Having experience of these relationships is invaluable for my future work in and outside of academia, strengthening my skills of collaborative working and helping me to feel more confident in these situations.

Doing my PhD as a CASE studentship with the EDF R&D ECLEER programme has added so much to the experience, some of which I’m sure I’ll only realise once it’s all over!