The Energy Rights Survey Project


Leone, B. and Kenner, A. (2020, Nov. 4). "Energy Vulnerability Survey." Housing Energy, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography.

History of the Survey

The Energy Rights Project started working on the “Shifting Energy Demands in Response to COVID-19” survey design in March 2020. It was an iteration of a shorter survey that was being administered at public workshops and events in Philadelphia. At the time, it felt important to document changing household energy use in the context of the pandemic. 

The original survey, “The Home Energy Survey” (v.01 February 2020) was just over thirty questions and asked about respondents’ energy systems and maintenance, about their knowledge of utility bill payment and utility bill assistance. The survey was administered in-person at events and workshops, and took on average 25 minutes to complete.

Based on the questions administered from the field survey, the Energy Rights group focused on issues with energy systems in the home, respiratory or other temperature-related illness, difficulties with utility bill payment. That said, with the advent of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent restrictive measures issued to reduce the spread, the Energy Rights Project had to pivot the survey into a different direction, one that also analyzed impacts (financial and otherwise) of the COVID-19 pandemic on household energy systems and household bill payment capabilities. 

Shifting Energy Demands During COVID-19: An Ethnographic Survey

Spring 2020 version

The spring 2020 version of “Shifting Energy Demand During COVID-19” (SEDDC) is substantially expanded; more than 70 questions it is an ethnographic survey that is semi-structured and open-ended. The survey was workshopped over a five week period by the Energy Rights Project research group, the Transnational STS COVID-19 research group, and by the Energy Vulnerability Lab. Questions ask about living conditions before and after the pandemic, as well as impacts on school and work; knowledge of home infrastructure and energy efficiency; technology use for work and leisure before and after the pandemic; emerging expenses and financial concerns; and knowledge of energy assistance programs. Right before launching the survey the first week in May we added a final question: Do you think you have a right to energy?

The spring 2020 version of the survey was administered over a six-week period between May and June. Survey administrators included researchers from the Energy Rights Project and the Energy Vulnerability Lab. A total of ninety-one surveys were administered using google forms; surveys are anonymous and no personal identifying information is collected. 

After completing survey administration, the research group worked to process and code the survey data. The research team revised the survey design and individual questions for the Winter 2020 survey version. The Winter 2020 version included more questions about seasonal energy bills, energy rights, and the energy efficiency workshops that respondents had attended.

Winter 2020 Versions

In November 2020, after analyzing the data from the Spring 2020 survey, the Energy Rights Project team revised the survey instrument for another round of data collection. Winter 2020 survey respondents were recruited from energy efficiency workshops held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, predominantly at ECA Neighborhood Energy Centers but also other nonprofit organizations. Eighty-five people were surveyed between December 1, 2020 and March 4, 2021. On average, the survey took sixty minutes and was always conducted over the phone. The Winter 2020 survey had slightly more questions than the Spring 2020 version, and included more questions about seasonal energy bills (and Summer 2020 specifically), energy rights, and the energy efficiency workshops that respondents had attended.

As of mid-March 2021 we are currently analyzing data from this survey and are posting data as it becomes available in the below PECE essay.

Spring 2021 Survey

On March 8th we opened the Spring 2021 version of the "Shifting Energy Demand During COVID-19" survey. We will continue recruiting participants from energy efficiency workshops in the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as through other networks. The survey will continue to be administered over the phone and we anticipate that it will take sixty minutes on average, similar to the Spring 2020 and Winter 2020 versions. 

This survey version has pared back some of the original questions related to the immediate impacts of COVID-19 but include more questions about energy knowledge.

If you are intereted in participating in the Spring 2021 survey, please contact us at

Survey Data

Respondent Stories

The Engaging Energy series constructs ethnographic accounts from conversations with survey respondents. Engaging Energy provides a different window into survey data, juxtaposed with data visualizations and cumulative trends in the data set. Our first set of respondent accounts were drawn from surveys where conversation was more robust, and respondents’ narrated their experiences, situations, and perspectives in greater depth. These accounts are designed to show relationships in the data differently.