Public Support for Renewables Hits Record 85 Per Cent High

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Support for renewable energy among UK residents has climbed yet again to hit 85 per cent, its highest level since the government first began recording attitudes towards energy and climate change issues five years ago.

According to the latest survey results released today there has been a clear uptick in support for renewables from the previous quarterly survey, which demonstrated overall support of 79 per cent.

The Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) questioned 2,000 people over two weeks between the end of March and beginning of April this year. Asked whether they supported or opposed the use of renewable energy for electricity, fuel, and heat, an overwhelming 85 per cent were in favour, with just three per cent opposed.

Support for solar and offshore wind also reached record highs in today’s update, hitting 87 per cent and 83 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, support for other renewables technologies also remained high: 81 per cent voiced support for wave and tidal energy, 76 per cent backed onshore wind, and 69 per cent were in favour of biomass.

It is indicative of broad support across the board for renewables. Three-quarters of respondents agreed that renewables industries and associated developments provide economic benefits to the UK, compared to 70 per cent in May last year.

And in a potentially positive development for onshore wind developers, 66 per cent of the public said they would be happy to have a large scale renewable development in their area, an uptick from 58 per cent in May 2017.

Analysis by climate campaign group 10:10 suggests public opposition to onshore wind is strongly correlated with climate scepticism, with hostility to the technology concentrated among the over 65s.

Onhsore wind is currently barred from competing in future subsidy auctions, although the government has indicated it is reconsidering its stance for projects outside of England.

Elsewhere in the results, support for nuclear remained relatively stable on 38 per cent compared to 22 per cent opposed, while public opinion on shale gas barely moved with 18 per cent in favour and 32 per cent opposed.

Dr Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said it was “notable” that public support for onshore wind was so high just as the government is signalling it is open to finding a route to market for new projects.

“With just two per cent of the population strongly opposed to what it the cheapest form of new electricity generation, this polling suggests that the time is clearly ripe for a review of the government’s de-facto ban on new onshore wind to be in tune with public opinion,” he said. “The government is rightly proud of the litany of recent records around renewable output, tumbling coal use, and the cleanliness of our power sector, but without further action, this progress risks stalling. The challenge, therefore, is developing further policies to support ministers’ admirably ambitious rhetoric.”

The latest PAT results mark a full five years since the government first began its regular surveys of public opinion on energy and climate issues, which started under the then Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in March 2012.

Elsewhere, today’s results also demonstrate growing concern over climate change over the past year, with 74 per cent stating that they were “very” or “fairly concerned”, up from 71 per cent in May 2017.

Concern over climate change was generally slightly higher among households on the highest income levels, reaching 86 per cent for the richest households compared to 62 per cent amongst those in the in lowest social grade bracket, according to the data.

Respondents were also more likely to see climate change being the result of human activity rather than natural process. Just under half believe it is caused mainly by human activity, compared to only one in 10 who believe it is mainly down to natural processes. Four in 10 think it is caused by a mixture of human activity and natural causes.

The PAT also included questions on electric vehicles, with the results confirming that the growing market for zero emission vehicles still faces a significant challenge breaking in to the mass market. Just 12 per cent of respondents said they either owned an EV already or were currently thinking about buying one, up from eight per cent in May last year.