UK poll reveals ‘overwhelming’ public support for community renewables

More than three quarters of UK households would support renewable energy projects such as wind turbines and solar farms if the profits generated benefitted the local community, a poll has found.

Co-operative Energy polled 2000 UK adults in order to reveal public attitudes on community projects in the wake of the Government’s decision to consult on subsidy withdrawals for community energy generation investment.

Co-operative Energy general manager Ramsay Dunning said: “The overwhelming picture from our poll is that the British public support renewable, and most importantly, community energy generation. Therefore the Government’s decision to withdraw its support from the renewable sector is extremely disappointing and at odds with popular opinion.

“Not only is support for onshore wind and solar as strong as ever but people actually want to be involved in local, community-owned projects in their own backyard. There is a real appetite amongst the general public alike to see renewable energy grow and prosper, but with more emphasis on community energy schemes which allow local communities to share the rewards. Any changes to the UK’s flagship Feed-in Tariff Scheme should allow for continuation of the UK’s community energy revolution.”

Community support

The poll revealed that 78% would support local projects within two miles of their home. Solar proved the most popular form of electricity generation with 30% saying it would be their preferred source of energy and 65% saying they would support a local solar farm.

Wind turbines also proved popular with 53% of households supporting the construction of turbines. Shale gas was the least preferred method of energy generation at 2% public support.

Age was a significant factor for supporting renewable schemes, in particular onshore wind projects. The poll found that 62% of people aged 18-24 supported the projects compared to 43% of over-65s.

Commenting on the poll, Giles Bristow, director of programmes at Forum for the Future – which acts as secretariat for the Community Energy Coalition – said: “This data shows that there is consistent support for an energy system powered by renewables, confirming the Government’s own survey findings on public attitudes. Public support rises even further when communities own their renewables supply – literally thousands of communities have sought to develop projects in their own backyard.”

Community Energy Fund

Last year, under the Community Energy Fund, a £10m funding pledge was injected for community-owned renewable energy projects. This made community projects eligible for Feed-In-Tariffs which pay the owners of projects for the electricity they produce.

Under the Community Energy Strategy, communities wanting to form energy groups should be able to do so ‘regardless of background or location.’

However, back in May, UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed the Conservative Party’s controversial plans to stop subsidies for onshore wind farms, claiming it is top of her agenda at the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC).

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie