Renewable links with Isles move a step closer

Last week the abundant renewable energy potential of the Scottish Isles and Islands took a step closer to being unlocked.

A report published last week for the Scottish and UK Governments by consultancy group Xero Energy has highlighted the actions which will need to be taken to ensure that the renewable resources available in areas such as the Shetland and Orkney Islands are available to the mainland. Much work will need to carried out to ensure that grid infrastructure is improved.

The key findings of the report are to considered by the intergovernmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group. These meetings are part of an ongoing collaborative process between the two governments to ensure that both Scottish and UK Renewable Energy 2020 targets are reached. Some of the reports key findings are as follows; certainty has to be provided for developers around the longevity of support from government which underpins the business case for sub-sea grid development,  the stability of grid charges, loan charges, and research funding support for grid connections for marine technologies such as tidal turbines.

One of the proposed sub-sea cables would stretch 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Gravis on the Isle of Lewis to Ullapool on the North-Western coast of Scotland. This cable would then link up to Beauly to Denny powerline. Great strides have been made on the Isles to unlock their renewable resources (work in which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in) but grid connections have to be improved to allow power to be exported to the mainland.

Commenting on the publication of the report Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing commented:

“I welcome the publication of the Xero report, which will help us to address the critical remaining barriers to new transmission connections for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Islands.

“The three island groups share significant challenges in getting grid connections off the drawing board in time to access support within the timeframe of the first Electricity Market Reform Delivery due to long lead-times and high costs for sub-sea connections – typically, upwards of four years to achieve approval and to build. The findings from this report will help us deal with these issues.

“There is wide acknowledgement across both the Scottish and UK Governments that the Scottish islands hold huge renewable energy potential, which could make a substantial contribution to both governments’ 2020 renewable energy targets and longer-term climate change ambitions.

“Our collaborative approach is based on this shared understanding, and through the work of the inter-governmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group, we will continue to build momentum towards delivery of these vital connections.”

UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey also released a statement:

“This report will play an important part in the next stage of our partnership work for renewable energy from the Scottish islands. We have already made more progress in the last year than for many years, after the UK Government announced last December additional support for onshore wind projects, with a special higher Scottish Islands strike price. While that initiative itself should unlock much potential green energy, I’m determined to tackle remaining issues despite the complexity involved.”

Last week also saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Developments following an extensive period of consultation. These Principles have been designed to ensure that communities benefit from renewable energy developments in their area. The Scottish Government has already established a register of community benefits to allow communities to make sure they receive an appropriate  level of community benefit.

The key principle which has been unveiled is the promotion of a national community benefits package rate equivalent of at least £5,000 per Megawatt per year – index linked to inflation for the operational lifespan of developments. This would mean that, for example, a 20 Megawatt wind would generate a community benefit of at least £100,000 per year. At this point we are pleased to tell you that all of our developments at ILI (RE) already meet these requirements. All of our onshore wind developments have always included a community benefit which is directed to our local charity partners to ensure that communities benefit from our developments; even at the time when community benefits were not required by either national or local authorities.

Another key proposal of the new guidance is to encourage developers to to submit information on community benefits at the earliest possible stage of development. This is to allow communities to consider any proposals and develop ideas as to where such funding would be directed. Again we at ILI (RE) have always been proud of our community benefits and charity partnerships and have always sought to make local authorities aware of these.

Speaking at the fifth annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing launched the publication of the Principles:

“Community benefits from renewable energy offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to communities across Scotland. Today, I can confirm that there is now around 285 megawatts of such capacity operational across Scotland. That puts us well over half way towards the target, and represents an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

“The Good Practice Principles is a landmark moment in encouraging developers to invest in community benefit schemes arising from renewables development and overall contribute to our target.

“This Guidance has drawn mainly on experience from the onshore wind sector but the Scottish Government would like to see community benefits promoted across all renewables technologies.

“This document details good practice principles and procedures promoted by Scottish Government, and is intended as a practical guide to the process but also, through examples of what is already being achieved, as a showcase to inspire success.

“Featured schemes include the Allt Dearg Community Wind Farm, which, through partial community-ownership, generated £130,000 for the Ardrishaig Community Trust in the first nine months of operation to September 2013, and which is expected to generate £100,000 in annual income to the Trust.

“The Scottish Government is very keen to see other communities get the chance to invest in local developments like this, and that is why as part of the Principles we have set up a short-term industry working group to develop guidance to encourage community investment in commercial renewables schemes.”

Finally, this week saw the publication of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s latest (and ninth) quarterly Public Attitudes Tracker. The survey was conducted in over 2,000 UK households in late March and has allowed the government to keep track of public opinion and support for renewable energy. The results of the survey have revealed that public support for renewable energy has remained strong.

Indeed, 80% of respondents stated that they “supported the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat”. Public levels of support have remained strong over the two year period in which these surveys have been carried out. This is despite the anti-renewables line taken by some mainstream media outlets over the course of this period. A majority of 59% of respondents stated that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable energy development in their area. This is a 4% increase compared to the survey published in March 2012 perhaps suggesting that more and more people are realizing the necessity of increasing the UK’s renewable energy capacity and the benefits which a renewable energy development can bring to an area.

It is also interesting to note that public support for individual forms of renewable energy generation have been unaffected by negative coverage in some parts of the media. Public support for onshore wind energy has reached an all time high of 70% indicating the public desire for more onshore wind developments. Both solar and offshore wind also saw record levels of support of  85% and 77% respectively.

One reason suggested for the entrenchment of public support for renewable energy is the increasing level of concern about climate change. According to survey climate change and energy security are now the joint fourth “biggest challenges facing the UK today”. The link between renewable energy and concern about climate change was illustrated by the publication of a report by the United Nations a few weeks ago; which outlined in the strongest possible terms that it is only through greatly increased use of renewable energy that disastrous climate change may be avoided.

With the media’s role in shaping public opinion on matters of energy generation under the spotlight it is extremely interesting to read the survey results on shale gas fracking. Some aspects are hugely in favor of shale gas fracking and have promoted it accordingly. Public awareness of the process of fracking has increased. In March 2013 48% of survey respondents were unaware of the process; this has now decreased to 25%. But, increased awareness has not translated into increased support. Under 30% of respondents supported shale gas fracking; very much a minority and very much in contrast to the majority support received by renewable energy.

Reading the news this week one can see the image of a renewably powered UK beginning to take shape. With a majority of the public in favor, community benefit guidelines being established and moving a step closer to unlocking the renewable potential of the Scottish Isles one can see the direction in which we are heading. We at ILI (RE) look forward to playing our part in realizing this.

UK public greatly favours onshore wind over fracking

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.

 

 

New poll reveals support for renewables

Yesterday the Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s eight quarterly public attitudes survey.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,110 households in mid December. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

77% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

This represents a 1% increase on the level of public support recorded in the previous survey. This is despite the long running campaign against renewable energy being carried out by several mass media publications. Not to mention the campaign for shale gas extraction being carried out by several of the same publications. Despite this more than three quarters of the Great British public support the continued and further use of renewable energy technologies.

51% of those people polled signaled that they “support” the use of renewable energy technologies. A further 26% of those polled responded that they “strongly support” the use of renewable energy technologies. In dramatic comparison only 4% of those polled gave the opinion that they opposed the exploitation of renewable energy resources. A further 1% “strongly opposed” the use of renewable energy. This comparison demonstrates that in reality anti-renewable energy sentiments are very much a minority, if not fringe, concern. This contrasts sharply with the picture presented in some avenues of the mainstream press which seek to portray such opinions as being held by the majority of people in this country.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 71% for wave and tidal energy, 72% for offshore wind generation, 64% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. Additionally the levels of “strong support” given for each technology type stands consistently between one quarter and one third of respondents. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

The survey also demonstrated that public awareness of shale gas and shale gas extraction has increased significantly in the last few years. When these quarterly surveys were first carried out two years ago 58% of respondents were unaware of shale gas. As of now this figure has decreased to 30% of respondents. Over the same time scale respondents “who know something” about shale gas have increased from 32% to 52%.

However increased awareness has not translated into increased support. This quarterly survey was the first to gauge public support for shale gas. Despite much coverage in the media and strong messages of support from some senior political figures only 27% of respondents stated that they would support shale gas development. 21% stated that they would not support shale gas development. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying in those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

Also this week it was announced that Glasgow City Council is to become the first local authority in the UK to switch to low energy LED (light-emitting diode) street lighting after securing a loan from the Green Investment Bank.

Glasgow City Council intends to convert over 70,000 street lights to LEDs in an effort to reduce costs, energy consumption and light pollution. Street lighting costs Local Authorities in the UK  £300 million a year and produces 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For some Local Authorities street lighting can account for up to 40% of their energy usage. The Green Investment Bank has voiced it’s hopes that other Local Authorities will follow Glasgow City Council in participating in such schemes.

Indeed to that end the Bank is offering similar loan packages to that given to Glasgow City Council to other Local Authorities. To fund LED street lighting conversion schemes the Bank is offering low, fixed rate loans over a period of up to 20 years. Repayments will be taken from energy bill savings. The Bank is advising Local Authorities that LED switching delivers pay-back within 5 to 15 years. Following this Local Authorities can expect bills to drop by up to 80%.

The securing of the loan was announced with enthusiasm from all parties. UK Green Investment Bank chief executive, Shaun Kingsbury, stated:

“Bad lighting does not come cheap, it carries an electricity bill which can be cut by up to 80 per cent with a move to low energy, LED lighting.  Making the switch saves councils money, increases community safety and dramatically reduces the UK’s carbon footprint.”

“The GIB Green Loan is essentially a corporate loan facility that covers the set-up, capital investment and installation costs of lighting upgrades to LED, with repayments being made from within forecast savings.  Put more simply, local authorities borrow money from the Green Investment Bank, but repay the loan entirely through the money they save by changing their lighting.”

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said:

“Once again the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) is leading the way in the green revolution. Street lighting across Britain tends to be very costly and energy inefficient, emitting the same amount of carbon dioxide each year as a quarter of a million cars on the road. This investment by GIB into new LED technology could make big strides in saving money for local councils and reducing our carbon footprint. I urge councils across the country to follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and GIB’s new Green Loan can help speed up the take up of this streetlighting.

“So far through the Green Investment Bank – the first of its kind in the world – we have invested more than £750 million in energy projects which are driving innovation and our plans for green growth. For every £1 the bank has invested, £3 has been raised from the private sector for projects in areas ranging from offshore wind to waste to energy efficiency products.”

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said:

“My vision is to make Glasgow one of Europe’s most sustainable cities. It is our goal to improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and generate savings for the public purse. Glasgow City Council is not only creating a digital and low carbon route out of recession with social justice at its heart, but also ensuring Glasgow is one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.

“Glasgow is leading the way in meeting existing challenges head on to become a smarter, more intelligent city. One of our current measures is set to see us become the first local authority to receive a Green Investment Bank loan as we work towards further embracing low energy streetlighting.”

Support for renewable energy and energy-saving schemes such as that announced in Glasgow yesterday remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.

 

New poll reveals support for wind energy

Last week the Mail On Sunday newspaper commissioned a new opinion poll to find out public attitudes to wind turbine developments.

The poll was carried out by the polling company Survation. The results revealed that the public continue to view wind turbines in a favourable light. In fact it could possibly be said that public support for wind turbine developments is only increasing in the UK.

All of the people surveyed as part of this poll were asked the following question:  “Which of the following statements is closest to your opinion: (a) I would be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area (b) I would not be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area”? The results revealed that a clear majority support not just the concept of wind energy developments being undertaken somewhere within the country but within the local area of those polled. 70.1% of people asked selected answer (a) demonstrating that nimbyism is very much a minority opinion; supported by only 31.9% of people.

Furthermore the poll revealed that public support for wind turbine developments  exists as the majority opinion across the political spectrum. The people surveyed were asked to state their voting intentions in the upcoming 2015 General Election. 60.8% of those who gave their preference as the Conservative Party stated that they would be happy to have a wind farm built in their local area. 74.6% of people intending to vote for the Labour Party were of the same opinion: as were 81.1% of future Liberal Democrat voters and even 57.8% of future UK Indepence Party (UKIP) voters. The polling information therefore suggests that wind power is not the divisive issue that some elements of the press and some politicians would wish it to be.

The second question in the poll asked those surveyed to choose a preferable form of energy generation development to take place in their local area. Specifically they were asked to choose between a wind farm development or a shale gas fracking plant. Again a  clear majority revealed that renewable wind energy was their choice. 68.1% of those polled stated their support for wind power over shale gas fracking. Only 31.9% of those asked gave their support for the controversial new form of fossil fuel extraction. Again this runs contrary to some elements of the press but is a strong indication of not only strong support amongst the general public for renewable energy but also a rejection of the fossil fuel status quo. As with the first question this opinion was reflected by the majority across the political spectrum.

Industry trade body RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber greeted the poll results positively:

“We’re pleased that a massive 7 in 10 people would welcome a wind farm near them. It goes to show that the loud opposition we sometimes hear just isn’t representative of general people’s views. This vote of support is consistent across age groups, voting intention and region of the country. In other words for politicians no matter which party you represent, or where in the country you are, if you oppose wind you’re out of touch with your voters.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what green levies represent and that makes it difficult for people to know whether they support them or not. What’s clear is when directly asking whether they favour Government spending money into the future encouraging wind, a majority of people say yes. Currently wind adds less than £20 a year to consumer bills, but we’re not taking this support for granted, and the wind industry is going to work hard over the next few years to reduce costs even further, ensuring that we have a clean, secure, affordable energy source which can provide tens of thousands of jobs in areas of the country which need them most”.

In other news this week, turbine manufacturer Gamesa announced that it has developed a new turbine maintenance and refurbishment program. This new program can potentially extend the operational lifespan of a wind turbine by around ten years. Currently wind turbines have an operational lifespan of around twenty to twenty-five years. Given that many other turbine manufacturers are expected to follow Gamesa in developing such programs it could become common to see wind turbines generating electricity for up to thirty fives before requiring replacement. The development of such programs is particularly timely given that many of the earliest installed turbine models are now nearing the end of their operational lifespan. The use of such maintenance schemes as that announced Gamesa could mean that there would be no drop off in installed wind generation capacity levels.

Turbine maintenance is expected to become a growth market in the future as more and more wind turbines are installed in the United Kingdom, Europe and Worldwide. More wind turbines creates an obvious need for more turbine maintenance. Additionally Gamesa announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Forth Ports Authority to establish an offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant in Leith. Yet another example of the job creation potential of the wind energy industry.

Gamesa’s Global senior vice-president Fernando Valldeperes announced the development of the program stating:  “Gamesa has been asked by the EC to come up with a standard process for life extensions for the whole of Europe, for which we had the first meeting last month … we’ve also been working with [green energy consultancy] Garrad Hassan to help them with this.”

The polls carried out this week reveal that a majority of the British public, irregardless of their political persuasion,  support the development of more of the UK’s wind resource and would be happy to see such developments  occur in their local area rather than just in some unloved corner of the country. When we see the developments in the technology itself and the job creating potential of the industry it is easy to understand why.

New surveys reveals continuing support for renewable energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s sixth quarterly tracker survey yesterday.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,124 households in early July. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

76% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

Whilst this represents a very slight decline from previous survey results it should be pointed out that the poll was conducted at the height of the shale gas industry’s media blitz, particularly within the right wing press.

This media campaign does not appear to have had the desired affect. There was no change in the level of people who oppose or strongly oppose renewable energy. Only 5% of those polled gave this opinion; demonstrating that this view remains the preserve of an extremist minority. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

18% of those surveyed commented that they had no opinion on renewable energy development. This equals the highest level recorded since the surveys were first carried out. Again this suggests that the campaign against renewables in some parts of the media is failing to have the desired affect.

The poll also revealed further positive news for the renewable energy industry. 71% of the people polled gave the opinion that they believe renewable energy to be economically beneficial to the UK. This is a 2% increase from the 69% of people who gave this opinion in the previous survey. Furthermore, 56% revealed that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable development in their local area. Again this was an increase from the previous poll in which 55% gave this opinion. The upwards trend of these opinions can perhaps be attributed to the fact that more renewable energy developments have came online in the time between the two surveys. More people have had a chance to see the economic benefits of renewable energy development in terms of community contributions and job creation. As the positive impacts of renewable energy are felt more widely one can expect the upwards trend of such opinions to continue.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 72% for wave and tidal energy, 71% for offshore wind generation, 65% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

In contrast to the continuing support for renewable energy nuclear power saw its support amongst the public continue to decline. Only 37% of those involved in the poll gave their support to its use in the UK. The level of support for nuclear has declined of several quarterly surveys and one can perhaps expect this trend to continue given the continued presence of the Fukushima disaster in the news. 25% of those polled opposed the use of nuclear power (contrasted with the 5% who did not support nuclear) and 35% had no opinion. The decline in support for nuclear as well as the uncertainty surrounding the prospects of new nuclear plants being built indicates that renewables will very much remain key to UK government energy policy.

DECC has long maintained that it regards the future of UK energy generation to be the use of a variety of different energy sources; what is often referred as the ‘mixed portfolio’. This stance continues to have a strong level of support from the UK public with 81% of those polled giving their backing to this policy.

The poll has revealed some of the issues which DECC is facing in terms of public awareness. 74% of people polled commented that they had thought ‘a fair amount’ or indeed a lot about home energy efficiency. Despite this and the launch of the Green Deal this year 47% revealed that they had never heard of smart meters. More will need to be done in this area but it should be noted that this figure represents an improvement on the 53% who gave the same answer in the previous quarter. Additionally the widespread roll out of smart meters (all homes and businesses are expected to have smart meters installed by 2020) is not scheduled to begin until 2015.

The fact that there exists a majority consensus on climate change is also good news for the renewable industry with 66% of the public fairly or very concerned about the issue. 38% of those polled attributed climate change mainly or entirely to human causes. 42% felt that it was being caused by a combination of human and natural causes and only 12% giving the opinion that it was being caused mainly or solely due to natural developments. These results indicate that the debate on the widespread use of renewable energy is far better placed in the UK than it is in a country such as the United States where the climate change debate is far more divisive both publicly and politically. A consensus existing on climate change means that the debate can move forward to how best to address it; which renewable energy generation can play an extremely major part in doing.

Support for renewable energy remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.

 

Majority of UK Public Support Renewables

A survey published last weekend in the Sunday Times has revealed that public support for renewable energy remains strong across the political spectrum. Support for renewable energy continues to outstrip support for shale gas developments despite a concentrated and sustained media campaign by shale gas companies.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, polled 1,952 people, establishing their political preferences and asked them if they were in favour of financial support for a variety of energy generation technologies. The poll revealed that a majority of all four political parties supporters were in favour of continued funding for renewable technologies such as wind and tidal power.

Regardless of political opinion, a majority of 65% were in favour of continuing support for the wind industry. This was a strong result given the continuing campaign against the industry in some parts of the media. 76% of those polled were in favour of financial support for the embryonic tidal power industry and 79% were favourable to continued support for solar power. These poll results seem to indicate that a consensus exists among the public in regards to renewable energy generation. Nearly two-thirds of those polled are of the opinion that renewable energy is the solution both to rising energy prices and climate change. This is reflected in the poll results for fossil fuel use. Only 40% of those polled were in favour of financial support for shale gas despite the optimistic estimates made in some parts of the media about it’s potential impact upon the domestic energy market. This belief in renewable energy was also seen in the fact that only 49% of those polled were in favour of financial support for nuclear support. This is despite the fact that new nuclear power generation will not be able to go ahead in this country without very heavy financial support from the government.

Shale gas has rapidly become a concern for many people within the UK; as demonstrated by the anti-fracking protest groups which are springing up across the country. Such concerns are reflected in the polling data. For example, 47% of those polled considered shale gas extraction (fracking) to be damaging to the environment. Only 31% believed that this was not the case. Furthermore, 43% of people felt that shale gas development would be harmful to their local area. Only 25% of people would be happy to see fracking proceed in their locality.

The fact that UKIP were included as one of the political party preferences demonstrates their growth; particularly in England. The party has often been perceived as an extremist (in some regards) offshoot of the Conservative party. One would expect therefore their supporters to be strongly anti-renewables. However, 51% of polled UKIP supporters were in favour of financial support for wind power and 76% in favour of support for marine energy. These results correlate with an earlier survey which found that voters favour politicians who actively support wind power. Public support for wind energy generation continues to be strong.

RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber released the following statement about the poll results:

“Poll after poll shows that voters value low carbon technologies such as wind and tidal power. This latest poll shows that there’s not a single age group or voting demographic where a majority of people don’t want financial support for wind. It’s clear that for politicians, whether they’re UKIP, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour that further development of our natural wind and marine resources is the way to go.

“With a recent study from Cardiff University showing that over 80% of people are worried about becoming overly dependent on energy from other countries, it’s important that confidence is retained for domestic low carbon producers. Wind provided enough power for the equivalent of 4.5 million homes last year and needs to play an increasing role in our electricity provision. If we press strongly on, as supporters of all political parties are urging, we can also build on our offshore and marine supply chain to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade”.

In other news, several major turbine manufacturers are collaborating together on solutions to reduce bird fatalities caused by turbine blades. The project is being led by Energy Norway, includes contributions from Statoil, Vatenfall, Trønder Energi Kraft, NVE and NINA, and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. Although research has demonstrated that turbines have no long term impact on bird populations and indeed cause less fatalities than traffic or domestic cats bird deaths remains an issue for some members of the public. This new pilot scheme will test whether painting some parts of wind turbines black (for instance one of the turbine blades or part of the tower) can increase their visibility to bird species and reduce collisions. The use of ultraviolet paint (which is invisible to the human eye) is also being explored. Trials are to be carried out at the 68 turbine Smøla wind farm in Northern Norway. Whilst any step which can be taken to reduce collisions is welcome it should be remembered that the most significant steps taken to avoid harming bird populations are carried out at the planning stage. Stringent planning requirements exist in Scotland (and the wider UK) to ensure that turbines are placed in areas in which they will have a minimal impact on protected species, large populations and migratory routes. However, if such schemes can further minimise bird deaths then they be welcomed by both the wind industry and the public.

Wind power continues to receive the support of the British public. But the result of this fact must not be complacency.The wind power industry must continue to get it’s message across. And programs such as that being trailed in Norway can only help to do so.