Poll reveals distorted view of wind power subsidies

New research has revealed the vast misconceptions held by the UK public surrounding wind power, such as the level of financial and popular support it receives.

A survey, carried out by by OnePoll on 2000 UK adults on behalf of RenewableUK, has revealed that Brits believe subsidies for wind power are over 14 times the amount they actually are. The average estimate was £259 from a typical £1,300 annual domestic dual-fuel energy bill, when subsidies for wind power are actually around £18 per household a year.

Over 90% of Brits underestimated the amount of public support for wind power, believing it to receive approval ratings of just 40% rather than the actual 70% level. Almost 90% of people polled also didn’t realise that wind turbines generate electricity between 70 to 85% of the time, believing it to be less. Half thought they generate electricity less than 40% of the time.

Three-quarters of people think that it takes at least 14mph to keep a wind turbine spinning. In fact, a wind speed of just 7mph – a light breeze – is needed for a wind turbine to generate electricity.

Negative rhetoric

RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “These independent polls show there are considerable misconceptions about the cost of supporting wind. This suggests that the loud voices of a small minority, too-often perpetuated by negative rhetoric in some parts of the media, are trying to distort the facts. The truth is that the vast majority of the British population – seventy per cent – are pro-wind power.”

“Onshore and offshore wind provided nearly 10% of the UK’s total electricity supply in 2014 – enough to power the equivalent of 6.7 million homes all year round. The more that people become aware of facts like this, the more they tend to support wind energy as the one of our most important power sources.”

Planning problems

In related wind power news, seperate figures also released today (2 March) by Barbour ABI – the chosen provider of construction data for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – reveal that 1,095 renewable projects worth £5.2bn had construction contracts were awarded in 2014.

Wind projects contributed 44% (£2.27bn) of the total amount of contracts awarded for renewable energy last year, but 45% of wind projects submitted were refused. 

Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI commented “Looking across the construction industry as a whole, for wind projects refusals to be running at 45% demonstrates there is clearly difficulties that likely range from the size and scope of the projects to public objections. 

“The value of the 409 wind projects refused planning permission in 2014 totalled a planned spend of £1.58bn, a significant figure to the construction industry. Alongside the increased importance of renewable projects to the UK energy sector, more may need to be done to look at reducing the refusal percentage of wind projects.”

The figures also show that a record amount of solar power projects, worth over £1.7bn, were awarded in 2014, with approvals increasing by 59% on 2013. 611 solar farms were submitted for planning in 2014, compared to only three solar farms in 2010, illustrating the rapid growth being experienced in the solar sector.

Overall, renewable energy planning applications increased by 26% compared to 2013, but 45% of projects submitted for detail planning were refused.

Lack of clarity

Earlier in the day, EY said the UK is losing its appeal as a destination for investment in renewables as a continuing lack of clarity round the future of the UK’s green energy mix and a policy hiatus caused by the upcoming General Election take their toll.

A particular lack of clarity around whether the recently-announced Contract for Difference (CfD) regime – the competitively bid prices that generators are prepared to sell power at – will be sufficient to stimulate investment in green energy has also contributed to the UK’s slip in the rankings.

The first wave of the Governments CfD scheme was announced last week, with 27 projects receiving more than £315m. Onshore wind projects are the big winners from the auction, receiving more than half (15) of the contracts.

Lucinda Dann

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