A new poll, published this week by You Gov, has revealed the strong and continuing support which the British public has for onshore energy wind energy.
In total 2,061 people were surveyed to gauge public support and preference for differing forms of electricity generation; in this case onshore wind energy and shale gas fracking. 62% of those polled confirmed that they would prefer to see an onshore wind farm in their local council area than a shale gas fracking development. In contrast only 19% stated that they would be more comfortable with having a shale gas fracking development in their area. Public support for shale gas fracking consistently remains in a minority according to every poll published on the subject. This is despite much campaigning for the technology from some parts of the print media and promotion from some senior political figures. Despite attempts to portray support for different forms of energy generation as party politics the You Gov poll has revealed that support for either shale gas fracking or onshore wind and other forms of renewable energy does not correlate with voting intentions.
The poll was commissioned by green energy company Ecotricity and has produced a number of interesting findings about public support for onshore wind. For example the poll has revealed that shale gas fracking is far less popular with women than it is with men (not to say that a majority of men supported shale gas fracking over onshore wind). Only 9% of women polled preferred the idea of fracking for energy over onshore wind generation. More men were in favour but still only a minority of 29%. A majority of both sexes were in favour of further onshore wind developments; 68% of women and 56% of men offered this opinion. Interestingly onshore wind generation is also more popular with the young than it is the old. Only 12% of those who stated that they supported fracking developments over onshore wind were aged between 18 to 24. In contrast 29% of those who gave that opinion were over 60. This suggests that support for fracking may diminish further in the future.
The results of the You Gov correspond with the UK government’s own findings. The last published results (from Feburary 2014) of the government’s ongoing attitudes survey which found that 64% of the public support further onshore wind developments compared to only 28% who support shale gas fracking. Indeed the various quarterly publications of the attitudes survey suggest only that the British public is rather unmoved by the regularly occurring campaigns against renewable energy from some arms of the media.
Given that electoral campaigning for the 2015 general election has begun in earnest if not in name it is very interesting to note that based upon the data collected by You Gov there exists no majority of any political persuasion who prefers shale gas fracking to onshore wind energy. For example, of those polled who indicated their preference to vote Conservative: half expressed a preference for further onshore wind developments; only a third preferred shale gas fracking. Significant majorities of Liberal Democrat and Labour voters (78% and 76% respectively) favoured onshore wind. Support for shale gas fracking was very much a minority pursuit (14% and 9% respectively). There were even more UKIP voters in favour of onshore wind than shale gas fracking (41% compared to 36%). This is despite frequent portrayals of the party as being composed of extremists. The fact that voting intentions simply do not correspond with opinions of renewable energy suggest that energy policy is considered to be a domain for facts rather than party politics.
This week also saw the publication of the United Nation’s third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (composed of a panel of 200 leading scientists) report ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’. The report has outlined in the strongest possible terms that it only through greatly increased use of renewable energy and a corresponding reduction in the burning fossil fuels that a climate change disaster can be averted
The leading minds of the age have stated that a tripling or even quadrupling in the use of renewable energy generation will be needed to prevent carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rising above the critical level of 480 ppm (parts per million) before the middle of this century If carbon dioxide levels were to surpass this level then the worst effects of climate change become unavoidable.
The report also highlights the importance of onshore wind to achieving these aims, particularly in countries such as the UK. Given the limited potential of such renewable technologies as solar power in a climate such as ours, and the currently noncommercial nature of technologies such as marine and tidal turbines, then it is logical that wind energy generation has a key part to play in the drive for enough renewable capacity and carbon dioxide emission reductions. Furthermore, given that onshore wind energy is one of the cheapest forms of renewable generation (cheaper for example than offshore wind) it is clear that onshore wind capacity will have to increase dramatically. This was a point made by trade body RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith:
“When it comes to taking practical action against carbon emissions, the most useful tool in the kit is wind energy. It’s the most developed renewable technology we have, providing more than half the low-carbon electricity we generate in the UK. We’ve now installed more than 10 gigawatts onshore and offshore – that’s enough to power more than 6 million homes, saving more than 11 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
“We installed nearly 5 gigawatts between 2000 and 2010, showing that at a time when global carbon emissions were rising fast, the UK was expanding its wind energy fleet rapidly to play its role in mitigating the effects of climate change. That’s why the Department of Energy and Climate Change said last month that the UK’s carbon emissions fell between 2012 and 2013 – and they cited our switch in electricity generation away from fossil fuels as the key factor driving that change.
“It’s also worth remembering that onshore wind is the lowest cost clean source we have in abundance – cheaper than other renewables and new nuclear. Wind ticks all the boxes in terms of affordability and low-carbon credentials, as well as providing us with home-grown energy security”.
Given the crucial nature of increasing onshore wind capacity it is fortunate that the British public remains strongly in favour of the technology. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) intend to play our part in helping the UK achieve it’s renewable energy goals.