Wind power backed by majority of Brits

The British public are generally supportive of wind power and most find the appearance of wind farms on the landscape acceptable - with just a small minority opposing development.

That was the outcome of independent research by Ipsos MORI for wind and marine energy trade body RenewableUK, which polled more than 1,000 people in a bid to establish a clearer picture of public opinion towards wind power and “rebalance the public debate on wind energy”.

It revealed that 67% of respondents are in favour of wind power in the UK, with 28% saying they are “strongly in favour” – compared to just 3% saying that are “strongly opposed”.

In addition, 57% said they find the look of wind farms on the landscape acceptable, while 20% said they find them completely acceptable.

Speaking to edie RenewableUK head of communications Robert Norris said that one problem the sector faces is the fact that the anti-wind contingency though small is extremely vocal in its media coverage.

However, he said that the results were “more or less what we were expecting”, adding that this latest piece of research provides evidence of the “overwhelming public support which isn’t always recognised in media coverage”.

As if to illustrate this point, the release of the research coincides with the announcement that a new national anti-wind body known as National Opposition to Windfarms (NOW), which pledges to “oppose windfarms by tackling policy”, is set to launch shortly.

RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery slammed the focus of such groups, arguing that “wind is an abundant, clean, secure and affordable energy source”, and that campaigns to disrupt the UK’s plans for renewable energy is damaging to the economy, undermines investment and jobs.

Mr Norris added that the main problem with many anti-wind groups is that they “fail to put forwards an alternative solution – other than gas”.

Nevertheless, despite such opposition it is clear the wind power sector is growing. RenewableUK attributes this partly to a government goal of generating 18GW of energy from wind by 2020 as it looks to find ways to “keep the lights on” and interest from foreign investors in UK wind power.

Commenting on the findings, renewable energy consultancy WSP Future Energy director of Jonny Clark says the poll indicates the anti-wind campaign is “out of line with the wider public, democratic opinion”, adding that it “encouragingly suggests that the majority of the public recognises the need for a balance of technologies to meet our energy needs in the future.”

Numerous independent studies have now been carried out which back this claim, however, Mr Norris again emphasises that just a small proportion of them ever gain the media coverage enjoyed by anti-wind campaigners.

However, financing figures from banking giant RBS provide strong evidence the sector is growing and investors are on board. In its 2011 Sustainability Report, released yesterday (April 18), RBS unveiled that it has provided the greatest amount of finance to wind power projects over any other type of energy, including oil and gas which gained just 3% of total loans.

In addition, a YouGov poll commissioned by the Sunday Times in December last year found that 56% of the public support the expansion of wind power – with 60% saying they support government investment in wind energy. This again was backed up by an EDF poll which suggested that 72% of the public have a positive attitude to wind power.

A Wind Energy Industry Charter was set up last month (March 2012) by the industry in a bid to investment and financial security in wind energy and safeguard jobs, as well as highlight how it is delivering benefits to the UK. It has now gained 70 companies from the wind energy industry as signatories and backing from energy secretary Ed Davey.

Carys Matthews

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