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From subordination to resistance and solidarity: transformative citizen action and energy vulnerability in Barcelona
1  Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)


The substantial increase in energy poverty levels occurred in Spain since 2008 has run in parallel to a rapid surge in unemployment rates and domestic energy prices, resulting in thousands of households facing the risk of disconnection from basic utility services because of late payment or non-payment of bills. As a reaction, citizen-led initiatives such as the Alianza contra la Pobreza Energética are supporting vulnerable households in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and its surroundings – especially those in risk of disconnection from electricity, natural gas and running water supply. At the same time, they raise awareness, give voice to the disenfranchised, and provide a platform for citizens to become politically engaged around issues of affordability and access to domestic energy services. The paper studies the potential of such responses to transform individually experienced conditions of vulnerability into networks of citizen solidarity and resistance through which resilience is enhanced both individually and collectively. By joining and engaging with this community of mutual support, it is argued that underprivileged households reclaim their agency and become more empowered; and therefore more capable of influencing the conditions under which energy poverty arises and confronting their status of isolated, vulnerable individuals subordinated to conditions set by more powerful state and corporate actors.

Keywords: energy poverty; vulnerability; disconnections; Barcelona; community resilience