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Firewood thief caught in the act. Illustration: Dall-E.

Out stealing firewood

October comes over. The electricity prices headline the front page of your wallet. In the special offer counter of your local grocery store you spot vegan hot dogs, 40% off. They expire today. Perfect.

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An active relationship with one's own energy consumption

Pack your rucksack. Persuade your family. Grefsenkollen? 45 minutes hike. Tops! Firewood? Find it in the forest. 

Brenda Boardman put it so eloquently in the 90s. "We call energy poverty the inability of a household to obtain sufficient energy services with 10% of disposable income."

"That definition is nice, but maybe a bit flat?" Senior researcher Mikkel Vindegg settles down by the fire.

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Senior researcher Mikkel Vindegg approaching the fire. Photo: Amund Aasbrenn

"My background dictates that I like a definition that is more context-dependent," he says, helping himself to a vegan grilled sausage.

What about: "Inability to provide the socially and materially necessary level of energy services in the home." Everyone nods appreciatively. Agreement.

He stands up and elaborates:

Mikkel Vindegg shares reflections on energy use from his field studies in Tanzania.

In Norway, we do not have this flexible view on the use of energy sources. We use electricity. Whatever the cost. Or do we? We use firewood in the fireplace. And charcoal in the grill for comfort during summer. And gas in the lighter, the primus, and in the irritatingly relaxing cabin that is off the grid.

The energy flexibility Mikkel observed during fieldwork in Dar-es-Salaam illustrates a more pragmatic view of energy poverty: You use the energy sources you can afford to use that day, and you have an active relationship with your own energy use.

Siddharth Sareen, associate professor at the University of Stavanger, mentions a third definition of energy poverty to Energy and Climate, namely: "Insufficient access to energy services in the home".

This means you may have to leave the house when the electricity budget is running low. Out to the forest. Hike to Grefsenkollen. Use the energy sources that suit the wallet. Grill sausages on an expiring date. Enjoy yourself in nature. Out stealing firewood.