The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 126

Energy, Poverty and Sustainable Urban Livelihoods


27 July 2003

Author: Sheilah Meikle & Alison Bannister

Publication Date: 2003

Urban poverty is an increasing phenomenon. It is characterised by the dominance of the cash economy, increasing reliance on infrastructure and physical assets over the natural environment and increasingly fragmented social relations. Each of these characteristics of urban poverty is linked (to a greater or lesser extent) to the use of energy and energy services. However, relatively little research has been undertaken into these linkages. This paper explores the energy/ poverty linkages in poor urban households in Indonesia, Ghana and China using a sustainable livelihoods framework as an analytical tool. It includes illustrative case studies, indicators that reflect the importance of energy within the livelihood priorities of the urban poor and consideration of refinements to the Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) model.

The Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) Approach perceives poverty as a condition of insecurity or vulnerability to shocks and stresses rather than merely a lack of wealth. Broadly, a sustainable livelihood is a way of living that is resilient to shocks and stresses and does not adversely affect the environment for present and future generations. Using the principles underpinning the SL approach, the study described in this paper was primarily qualitative and participatory, attempting to understanding the relationship between poverty and energy using a research team comprised of both energy and poverty experts. 

Download this paper