Six charts that show how public support for UK renewables has reached record levels

Public support for the UK's renewables revolution has reached an all-time high, with the latest Public Attitudes survey from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) revealing that eight in 10 Brits support the uptake of clean technology.

Figures from DECC’s Tracker, released today (28 April), show that the UK public is now willing to embrace renewables with open arms, with 81% of the 2,105 people surveyed claiming that they are in full support of green energy.

With 70% of respondents also concerned about the adverse effects of climate change, the public is clearly recognising the envirionmental benefits of renewable energy installations, with 56% saying they would welcome a large-scale renewable development in their own area.

Solar installations remain the most popular choice for renewables among the public, while support for biomass has wavered slightly – due to ongoing concerns over its environmental impact. Offshore wind appears to be more popular than its onshore counterpart – a sentiment that has been echoed by various policy changes to offshore subsidies over the past 12 months.

A growing number of the public are now concerned about the ability of fossil fuels to support UK energy demand. Even more are worried about the Government’s lack of investment and unwillingness to support alternate energy sources.

Juliet Davenport, chief executive of renewable energy company Good Energy, said: “The message from the British public is loud and clear. 81% of us back renewables for our energy – people want to see a transition to a renewable future here in the UK.

“Just last week in New York, world leaders signed the Paris climate agreement, supporting ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions. The government needs to listen to public support, take the lead in seizing new opportunities and keep us on the path to decarbonisation.”

More than half of those surveyed by DECC were also concerned about the Government’s ability to use existing sources of fossil fuel sufficiently – with the decision to cut a £1bn fund into Carbon Capture and Storage techniques creating an air of uncertainty for energy-intensive industries.

Proposed reforms to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) have seemingly muddied the waters for public opinions on heating technology, with no clear preference on individual technologies available. While biomass boilers appear to be the most reliable in the eyes of the consumer, 40% still believe that this renewable heat technique would be an “unreliable” option for heating homes.

The ongoing delays surrounding the planned nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset – which some believe could cost the UK economy “tens of billions” – has also clouded public perception of nuclear as an energy source.

Despite nuclear accounting for more than 20% of the UK’s energy mix, just one-third of respondents believe that it is a safe and viable way to power the country. However just under half believe that, while not necessarily safe, nuclear does provide a reliable source of energy.

The high-profile campaigning against fracking – including a video directed at Prime Minister David Cameron from movie star Mark Ruffalo – has seen public awareness on the issue increase by 38% since 2012, with 74% now aware of the issues surrounding shale gas exploration.

Despite this, 46% of those surveyed are undecided on whether they support or oppose fracking. In total, just under a third actually outright opposes shale gas exploration in the UK, while fewer than 20% actually support the process.

Despite the Government deciding to extend a £400m plug-in grant for electric vehicles (EVs), just under half of the respondents admitted that they haven’t thought about buying an EV. In fact, less than 1% actually own EVs in the UK, but with Tesla set to roll-out its “affordable” Model 3, these attitudes could soon be swayed.

Commenting on the survey results of the DECC Public Attitudes Tracker, RenewableUK’s chief executive, Hugh McNeal, said: “It’s great that the British public sees how renewable energy is helping to grow the UK economy. Renewables are delivering investment and jobs throughout our country.”

The survey comes just two days after the cross-party parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) called upon the Government to accept the recommendations of its independent advisory body in setting the fifth carbon budget, warning that “the UK can’t afford any further delays”.

MPs from the ECC have urged the Government not to deviate from an advised carbon budget of 1,765MtCO2e, while also suggesting that a specific power sector carbon intensity target of 100 gCO2/kWh should be set for 2030, to provide more certainty for investors.

Matt Mace

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