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Conceptualizing urban household energy use: Climbing the "Energy Services Ladder"


  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.


This article begins by defining energy services and identifying how they differ according to sector, urban and rural areas, and direct and indirect uses. It then investigates household energy services divided into three classes: lower income, middle income, and upper income. It finds that the primary energy technologies involved with low-income households involve a greater number of fuels and carriers, ranging from dung and fuelwood to liquefied petroleum gas and charcoal, but a fewer number of services. Middle-income households throughout the world tend to rely on electricity and natural gas, followed by coal, liquefied petroleum gas, and kerosene. These homes utilize energy to produce a much broader range services. The upper class or rich have access to the same energy fuels, carriers, and technologies as middle-income homes and families, but consume more energy (and more high luxury items). The study highlights how focusing on energy services reorients the direction of energy policy interventions, that energy services are neither uniform nor innate, and by noting exciting areas of potential research.

Suggested Citation

  • Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2011. "Conceptualizing urban household energy use: Climbing the "Energy Services Ladder"," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1659-1668, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:3:p:1659-1668

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    Cited by:

    1. Goldthau, Andreas & Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2012. "The uniqueness of the energy security, justice, and governance problem," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 232-240.
    2. Satoru Komatsu & Hieu Dinh Ha & Shinji Kaneko, 2012. "Effects of Internal Migration on Residential Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions in Hanoi," IDEC DP2 Series 2-17, Hiroshima University, Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation (IDEC).
    3. repec:gam:jscscx:v:6:y:2017:i:4:p:144-:d:120248 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Roger Fouquet & Peter J.G. Pearson, 2012. "The Long Run Demand for Lighting:Elasticities and Rebound Effects in Different Phases of Economic Development," Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    5. Kileber, Solange & Parente, Virginia, 2015. "Diversifying the Brazilian electricity mix: Income level, the endowment effect, and governance capacity," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 1180-1189.
    6. Cravioto, Jordi & Yamasue, Eiji & Okumura, Hideyuki & Ishihara, Keiichi N., 2014. "Energy service satisfaction in two Mexican communities: A study on demographic, household, equipment and energy related predictors," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 110-126.
    7. Gosens, Jorrit & Lu, Yonglong & He, Guizhen & Bluemling, Bettina & Beckers, Theo A.M., 2013. "Sustainability effects of household-scale biogas in rural China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 273-287.
    8. Stefan Bouzarovski & Saska Petrova & Sergio Tirado-Herrero, 2014. "From Fuel Poverty to Energy Vulnerability: The Importance of Services, Needs and Practices," SPRU Working Paper Series 2014-25, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    9. repec:eee:ecolec:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:43-52 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Fouquet, Roger, 2014. "Long run demand for energy services: income and price elasticities over two hundred years," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 59070, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    11. Roger Fouquet, 2013. "Long Run Demand for Energy Services: the Role of Economic and Technological Development," Working Papers 2013-03, BC3.
    12. Gouveia, João Pedro & Fortes, Patrícia & Seixas, Júlia, 2012. "Projections of energy services demand for residential buildings: Insights from a bottom-up methodology," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 430-442.


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