Survey reveals public support for move to renewable energy

2 min read

Researchers have found that a significant portion of the British public support moves to an efficient, clean, fair, and safe energy system but distrust remains a concern.

A new report titled Transforming the UK energy system – public values, attitudes and acceptability brings together the findings from two in-depth phases of research carried out over a period of 30 months; a series of six in-depth deliberative workshops with members of the public held across England, Scotland and Wales, and a nationally representative survey of 2,441 members of the public.

Funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKRC) the research was carried out by a team from Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, School of Psychology, and Welsh School of Architecture.

Prof Nick Pidgeon, School of Psychology, who led the research said: ‘Our participants saw the bigger picture of energy system transformation, and they were overwhelmingly committed to moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable forms of energy production and to lowering energy demand.’

The research highlights factors that are influential in public assessments of proposed changes. From examining these factors the research shows that publicly favourable changes would: be energy efficient rather than wasteful; protect the environment and nature; be reliable, accessible and safe; allow consumers a certain amount of autonomy and power; be socially just and fair; improve on what has gone before; score well in terms of quality and performance; and, fit with a long-term, sustainable trajectory, rather than being just a short-term fix.

‘Our research has shown clearly that people are more likely to accept changes that show signs of commitment to their underlying values, such as energy system components that are clean, efficient, fair and safe.

‘The public is also keen for policy makers to clarify how current changes to the energy system fit with longer-term plans, and to develop an intelligible and coherent strategy for this,’ said Prof Pidgeon.

Welcoming today’s announcement Maria McCaffery RenewableUK’s chief executive said,‘The message to government is crystal clear – develop our home grown renewable resources and stop allowing the country to be held hostage to fluctuating international fossil fuel prices.

‘With more than 8 out of 10 people concerned about Britain becoming dependent on expensive energy from other countries, it’s vital we develop our massive wind, wave and tidal resources and get the UK providing a majority of its own power again.

‘Not only does this bring energy security, with wind already providing the equivalent power for 4.59 million homes in the last year alone, but also the potential for tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade – and we should remember that in 2011-2012 wind energy cost each household only just over 3p per day.’

Findings in the report include:

  • 74 per cent of participants were very or fairly concerned about climate change, while 82 per cent were worried about the UK becoming too dependent upon energy from other countries;
  • 79 per cent want to see a reduction in the use of fossil fuels over the next few decades; 81 per cent express a desire to reduce their energy use; and support for solar (85 per cent) and wind energy (75 per cent) remains very strong;
  • The public is undecided on the role of nuclear power in the future energy mix. However, over half (54 per cent) still said they would oppose the building of a new nuclear power station in their area;
  • Awareness of new low carbon technologies for the home, such as electric heating using ‘heat pumps’, was low. The percentage of people willing to use electric heating rose from 42 per cent to 61 per cent if it was posed as matching the performance of current systems and to 85 per cent if it was also presented as cheaper. A majority (53 per cent) were willing to use electric vehicles, rising to 75 per cent if they performed as well as conventional models.

Source: Cardiff University