British Support For Renewable Energy Continues To Grow

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A new survey conducted by the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has found British support for renewable energies has grown in the past year.

uk solar power wind turbines
UK wind turbines and solar panels in Cornwall.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

The survey, DECC Public Attitudes Tracker, was run from early 2012 through to last March. There were four surveys — one longer survey and three shorter ones — concluded with a face-to-face in-home interview with a representative sample of 2,051 households.

Below are the key findings which were taken from the survey, as finalised after Wave 5. For a full comparison of wave 5 findings against the previous four waves, head on over to the DECC website and access the full questionnaire, the full wave 5 dataset, and more.

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ENERGY BILLS & SWITCHING: six in ten people concerned about energy bills; increased interest in collective switching

  • Concern about energy bills has reached the highest level since wave 1, with 59% of UK adults concerned about rising bills (56% in wave 1) and 45% to 50% over waves 2-4. This is likely to have been influenced by the unseasonably cold weather prior to and during the fieldwork period.
  • Awareness of collective switching increased to 27%, from 21% in wave 1 and there was a significant increase in the proportion of people interested in joining a collective switching scheme, up to 42% from 34% in wave 1.
  • 16% have switched energy supplier in the last year, similar to the wave 1 figure of 15%.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY SECURITY: not seen as key challenges facing the UK but, when asked directly, concern about energy security is rising; strong support for mix of energy sources

  • In spite of increased concern in wave 5, climate change and energy security are not viewed as key challenges facing Britain today. 5% of respondents saw climate change as the top challenge, up from 2% in wave 1; and 6% cited security of energy supply, double the wave 1 level of 3%.
  • When asked directly, 66% were concerned about climate change (similar to wave 1’s 65%), with 12% attributing it to natural causes, down from 15% in wave 1.
  • Concern about energy security has increased since wave 2 (when the questions were first asked). 88% were concerned about steep rises in energy prices in the future (the next 10-20 years) in wave 5, up from 84% in wave 2; 79% were concerned about the UK becoming too dependent on energy from other countries, up from 74% in wave 2; and 75% were concerned the UK is not investing fast enough in alternative sources of energy, up from 71% in wave 2.
  • There is strong support for a mix of energy sources: 81% agreed that the UK needs a mix of energy sources to ensure a reliable supply of electricity. This is unchanged from the wave 1 level of 82%.

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE: small rise in awareness

  • Awareness of CCS increased to 41%, from 36% in wave 1. 57% of those aware of the technology supported its use to generate electricity in the UK.

SHALE GAS: awareness level rises from 42% to 52%

  • Awareness, at any level, of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, to extract shale gas rose by ten percentage points to 52% since wave 2 – the first time the question was asked.

RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES: steady growth in support

  • Support for renewable energy sources to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat rose to 82%, from 79% in wave 4 (and 79% in wave 1).
  • Support for individual renewable technologies is at similar levels to wave 1, with 85% now supporting solar, around three-quarters supporting wave and tidal (77%) and off-shore wind (76%) and around two-thirds supporting on-shore wind (68%) and biomass (64%).

NUCLEAR ENERGY: support rising but a mixed picture overall

  • Support for nuclear energy for generating electricity in the UK rose to 40%, from 37% in wave 4, although overall views are split, with 23% opposed and 35% neither supporting nor opposing its use.
  • 46% of people agreed that nuclear energy provides a reliable source of affordable energy in the UK, no significant difference to wave 1’s 43%.
  • 44% thought nuclear energy generates economic benefits to the UK, again no significant difference to the wave 1 level of 42%.

SMART METERS: more people have a smart meter

  • The number of UK adults saying they have a smart meter rose to 12%, from 6% in wave 1. This finding may have been influenced by changes to the question wording and display images on the wave 5 questionnaire.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND INSULATION: high levels of energy wasting behaviours; increased uptake of under floor heating

  • The number of people saying they think about saving energy in the home returned to wave 1 levels, with 26% giving a lot of thought to energy saving behaviours and 54% a fair amount of thought.
  • In spite of concern about energy bills and 80% saying they think about energy saving behaviours, levels of energy wasting behaviours remained high overall: with 67% of people admitting to at least occasionally boiling the kettle with more water than they intend to use; 52% leaving lights on when they are not in the room; and 52% leaving the heating on when they go out for a few hours.
  • 51% of households had installed or thought about replacing an older gas boiler with a more efficient condensing boiler, up from 45% in wave 1. This is considerably higher than any of the alternative sources of heat measured – only 7% have installed or thought about installing solar panels, and 2% installed or thought about installing air source heat pumps.
  • The proportion of households who had installed under floor insulation increased to 15%, from 11% in wave 2.

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Joshua S Hill

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