New figures highlight public/government disconnect on renewables

New figures showing widespread public support for renewables have reignited calls for the Conservative party to reconsider their anti-onshore wind stance ahead of May's General Election.

The results of a Decc survey, released today, showed that 68% of Britons support onshore wind, up 2% from 2012. Just 10% of the public – a record low – oppose onshore generation.

RenewableUK director of policy Dr Gordon Edge said the results – taken from a representative sample of 2,119 UK households – demonstrated growing public support for renewables.

“That’s why it’s so hard to understand why the Conservative party is turning its back on onshore wind, threatening to kill off the industry if it wins the next election.

“Independent polls show that David Cameron is totally wrong to claim that people are “fed up” with onshore wind – they show the reverse is actually true, and that being anti-wind is a net vote loser.

“We hope that as manifestos are being written the Conservatives will see how misguided it would be to oppose such a popular technology as onshore wind.”

In April 2014, then-Energy Minister Michael Fallon promised to stop building onshore wind installations after 2020. “The UK has enough onshore turbines,” he said at the time.

Peaks and valleys

The political uncertainty has not yet had an adverse effect on the wind industry, which broke records for monthly, weekly and half-hourly generation in January, providing enough energy to power almost nine million UK homes.

However that success could represent a peak rather than a solid foundation, without future political support.

Talking at a Scottish wind conference last week, ScottishPower Renewables’ managing director Jonathan Cole said: “Working in this industry is a rollercoaster: one day optimism, the next day despair.

“It feels like now as if we are an industry in retreat – that our hopes have been raised and very rapidly confounded. But we must remind ourselves that we are an industry which is growing and creating jobs.

“There are a lot of reasons for us all to be optimistic about this sector, but we need a much more stable political environment in which to operate.”

Our survey says…

The Decc poll also revealed a broad support for offshore wind at 74%, up 9% over 2012.

But yesterday, Europe’s offshore wind industry warned that the market had slowed down in 2014 and could slump in 2016 without long-term funding certainty from policymakers.

Solar had an even higher approval rate at 81%, although that represented a 2% drop from 2012. By contrast just 39% of respondents supported nuclear energy. 

Brad Allen

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