Public support for renewables rises as nuclear and fracking falls
Public backing for nuclear energy and fracking has fallen in recent months while support for clean energy continues to surge, according to the latest opinion tracker from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The new figures highlight a negative impact on support for nuclear and shale gas exploration in the wake of Government energy policy decisions, with the majority of people across the UK voicing support for the use of clean technologies.
Public backing for the use of nuclear energy significantly fell in the past three months, with support falling to 33% from 36% in the previous quarterly review. A quarter were opposed to nuclear strategy, in the wake of the Government’s recent controversial decision to give the go-ahead to the Hinkley Point C power station.
In terms of support for shale gas extraction, half of respondents stayed neutral (48%) or said they were unsure (2%), reflecting a general lack of detailed public knowledge. One-third were opposed to fracking, while only 17% provided their backing, representing the lowest level of public support since the tracker began in 2012. The report identified the loss or destruction of natural environment as a major reason for a shift towards opposition.
Renewable energy continued its high level of popularity at 79%, up two points from the previous tracker in May. Opposition to clean technologies was very low at 4%, with only 1% strongly opposed. Solar technology achieved the highest support at 82%, while back for wave and tidal energy remain very high at 75% each.
Commenting on the results, renewable energy company Good Energy chief executive Juliet Davenport said: “Renewable energy still remains the UK’s favourite form of energy – it’s local, it’s sustainable and it’s pioneering.
“Government should listen to public opinion, champion renewable energy and throw its weight behind tackling climate change. What would you rather picnic next to – a wind turbine or a nuclear reactor? I know which one I’d choose.”
The tracker revealed a record high of 71% of people supporting onshore wind, up from the previous high of 70% in 2014. This echoes the findings of opinion poll carried out by market research and consultancy firm ComRes last week, which revealed the British public’s overwhelming support for onshore wind despite Government cutbacks.
RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal added: “It’s great to see public support for onshore wind has reached its highest ever level, at an overwhelming 71%. Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new power generation available in Britain, so it makes sense to use it to keep people’s electricity bills as low as possible”.
The BEIS tracker reflects a growing general public consensus that low-carbon technologies should form the focal point of the UK Government's clean energy mix.
A recent YouGov poll revealed that only 33% of the public would support shale gas exploration in their local area even if efforts were made to incentivise communities through payments. Public backlash to the Government’s fracking proposals comes amid continued political and business opposition to the Hinkley nuclear plant.
Despite increasing public support, the UK's attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low, due to a series of unexpected green policy U-turns and the on-going uncertainty surrounding the role of renewables in our energy mix.