Brits still back renewables despite subsidy cuts

More than three quarters of the UK public support the use of renewable energy, according to the latest opinion poll from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The newest edition of DECC’s quarterly Public Attitudes Tracking survey questioned a representative sample of 2,121 households in the UK, with 76% saying they “support” the use of renewable energy for providing electricity, fuel and heat. Just 5% of respondents “oppose” renewables. 

Public support for green energy has never fallen below 75% since the survey was first taken in March 2012.

The most popular technology was once again solar with 80% support, although all the technologies – onshore/offshore wind, biomass, and wave/tidal – had 65% support or better. Biomass was the ‘least popular’ energy source, although it still had 65% support compared 6% opposition. 

Renewables shortfall

The poll comes on the same day as a leaked letter from Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, which warned fellow cabinet members that the UK was likely to miss its 2020 renewable energy targets.

Commenting on the results of the survey, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: “The message from this latest poll is clear – ordinary people see renewables as a British success story and want to see us increasing their use further. We hope that Ministers will look at these figures carefully and listen to what the thousands of voters who took part in this official Government poll are telling them.
“The costs of onshore and offshore wind are falling rapidly. Onshore wind is one of the cheapest of all sources of electricity, so we need it kept in the energy mix to drive our fuel bills down. Support for offshore wind remains sky-high too, and backing for renewables overall is also increasing.
“If the Government is worried about meeting its renewable energy targets, wind can help make up the shortfall. It makes sense to reduce our dependence on imports and to tackle climate change using our superb home-grown resources.”

Juliet Davenport , the chief executive of renewable energy company Good Energy, said: “As the government wonders how it will reach its renewable targets by 2020, the message from voters is loud and clear.

“The best way to hit our targets is to get behind home-grown, renewable energy right here in the UK. We need to encourage our government to re-think its strategy because the overwhelming majority of voters support renewable energy.”

Sunshine technology

The solar industry also welcomed the survey results, pointing out the irony of recent subsidy cuts in the face of overwhelming public support for solar.

The Solar Trade Associations (STA) head of external affairs Leonie Greene said: “These very high levels of public support for solar show yet again that this sunshine technology is the nation’s favourite source of energy.

“This is also shown by the more than 55,000 responses to the Feed-in Tariff public consultation received by DECC – an unprecedented number showing the widespread outrage and these extreme cuts.”

“No other technology empowers consumers and communities to take charge of their energy bill and act on climate change like solar power. By cutting support for solar the government is taking power away from people, organisations and communities all over the UK – and they don’t like it one bit.”

Hotting up

The DECC survey also included new questions about renewable heat for the first time, finding that less than 5% of respondents felt that they knew a lot about any of the key technologies – air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, and biomass boilers.

That said, the public are more than four times as likely to be positive (45%) about the idea of having a renewable energy system in their home than negative (10%).

The Government has yet to announce a replacement or extension for the Renewable Heat Incentive which with tariffs set until March 2016.

Brad Allen

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