Professor Harriet Thomson

  • Professor of Energy, Sustainability and Inequality (Urban Studies)


Professor 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. Since 2021, she also been actively involved with mainstreaming climate change within Social Policy. 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.

Professor Thomson’s research outputs have been used to influence the framing of policy approaches to address energy poverty worldwide, and she regularly conducts policy-orientated work with organisations such as the United Nations, G20, European Commission, and the European Environment Agency. 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. The significant policy impacts of her research were recognised by the ESRC, who awarded her an Outstanding Impact prize in 2017. 

Research interests

  • Energy poverty/fuel poverty
  • Health and wellbeing impacts
  • Comparative social policy
  • Participatory research methods
  • Latin American and European energy policy
  • Socially just transitions to net zero
  • Integrating social and climate policies

Research groups


Current projects

  • 2021-2024: Horizon 2020, €2m, Community Energy for Energy Solidarity (CEES) (Co-I).
  • 2021-2025:  Social Policy Association, £3,000, Climate Justice and Social Policy Group (CUSP) (Founding member and Co-I).
  • 2020-2024: 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).


Past projects

  • 2020-2022: British Council – Newton Fund, £216,464 for ‘Capabilities-led energy poverty alleviation via innovative community solutions (CaPAS)’ (Project Investigator).
  • 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).
  • 2017 – 2022: European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) scheme, ca. €520,000 (Co-I, Vice-Chair, and co-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-PI 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)


Since 2018, I have 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.

Additional information


  • 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