Poll shows voters prefer wind power to nuclear

The general public seem to be far more in favour of windfarms than the headlines of nimby-ism and hardline opposition would have us believe.

At least, they are when given a stark choice between wind and nuclear power on their doorstep.

A recent poll conducted by ICM on behalf of the BBC in Scotland found that, given the choice between the two, 73% of respondents supported wind, with only 17% favouring the nuclear option.

The results were seized upon by Friends of the Earth who used the results to argue that “Westminster and the nuclear industry should stop trying to foist new nuclear stations on Scotland.”

Duncan McLaren, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “During this election we are wanting to hear which parties are prepared to deliver year-on-year cuts in climate pollution. This poll confirms that, faced with the threat of climate change, Scots overwhelmingly endorse renewable energy as the best way to meet needs for electricity. This is consistent with other findings from an Institution of Civil Engineers survey that over four-fifths of Scots oppose nuclear power.”

However, the Institution of Civil Engineers themselves interpreted their own survey’s results rather differently.

It is true that only one-in-four supported nuclear power in the ICE survey, but the ICE themselves took this as a sign of how desperately unaware the British public are about the impending energy crisis.

David Anderson, Chairman of ICE’s Energy Board, commented:

“It is worrying that the majority of the public cannot even hazard a guess at how many wind turbines are needed to replace the output of just one nuclear station. It is even more concerning that they place so much reliance and faith in renewable sources. These have been presented as a panacea for the UK’s looming energy gap. The truth is that without massive investment, we will be reliant on burning gas from overseas to create electricity within 15 years. Everyone supports renewable energy, but there is no way that renewables can currently plug the gap left by the demise of nuclear power stations.”

The ICE’s survey also highlights that the public overestimate the contribution renewable sources, such as wind, can make to the mix of electricity generation. By 2020, the public predicted on average, that renewables would contribute nearly a third of electricity generation, whereas it is likely to be less than half that – at its very best, 15%.

Scotland does seem to have far higher levels of support for windfarms, however, than England. A poll in 2003 found that more people had a positive experience of windfarms than a negative one. However, these results were far overshadowed by those who described themselves as having “neither a positive nor negative experience” (see related story).

It seems that in the energy debate, the real opposition is between those who have enough to make an effort, and those that simply can’t be bothered.

By David Hopkins

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