‘Clear public support for more renewables’, UK poll shows

74 per cent of people said they’d support planning reforms to build energy projects more quickly (Getty)
74 per cent of people said they’d support planning reforms to build energy projects more quickly (Getty)

The majority of people in the UK believe increasing levels of renewables such as wind and solar power is the most effective solution for guaranteeing the UK’s energy security.

The rising cost of energy and the war in Ukraine also means people are increasingly looking to reduce their consumption of oil and gas.

Ahead of the government’s long-awaited energy and security strategy, which will set out how the government aims to keep the lights on while also hitting its legally binding net zero by 2050 deadline, almost two-thirds – 61 per cent – of people said they believed renewables were the most important solution.

Meanwhile, 48 per cent of people were already taking steps to reduce gas and oil demand.

The polling, carried out by Opinium on behalf of Swedish energy company Vattenfall, comes after the government signalled support for new drilling for fossil fuels in the North Sea, and has also suggested it could delay capping fracking wells, and has said it wants to raise nuclear power generation up from accounting for 16 per cent of demand to 25 per cent.

The forthcoming energy and security strategy, which is reportedly delayed due to an internal government row over spending, comes as the price of powering our homes and vehicles, staying warm and cooking food is rising fast, mainly because of a pre-existing rise in wholesale energy costs, but also because of the war in Ukraine.

But while experts have said the fastest and most effective way of cutting dependence on fossil fuels, including Russian imports, is to insulate homes, roll out more air source heat pumps and focus on providing cheap renewable energy, the government has already indicated it is also planning to support environmentally unfriendly forms of energy generation.

The survey found offshore wind was viewed as the most effective solution for guaranteeing energy security by 28 per cent of consumers, followed by solar (27 per cent), and nuclear generation (23 per cent).

It also revealed that 40 per cent of those polled supported reforming the planning process to build renewable energy projects more quickly.

Meanwhile, 28 per cent said they would support reform for all energy projects, while just 6 per cent would support reform only for fossil fuel projects such as fracking and gas power station construction.

Overall, 74 per cent of people supported planning reform of some kind to help guarantee the UK’s energy security.

Dr Jeff Hardy, senior research fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, who was not involved with the study, told The Independent, the results were “no surprise”.

He said: “It has been the case that the public is strongly supporting renewables for several years now. This is not the case for new fracking, which the public generally opposes.”

Speaking about the government’s energy strategy, he added: “The Climate Change Committee’s advice [to the government] shows that some fossil fuels will remain in the UK energy mix over the next decade and beyond. There does have to be a plan to minimise or eradicate fossil fuel usage in the long term. To my mind, this begs the question of whether investing in new fossil infrastructure is economic.

“If the UK long term strategy, in light of high fossil fuel prices and the war in Ukraine, is to reduce rapidly and ultimately exit fossil fuel use as soon as possible, then it does not make any sense to drill for further fossil resources. In this case our efforts should be focused on rapid transition to a fossil-free economy.”

Danielle Lane, UK country manager for Vattenfall said: “There is clear public support for more renewable power to help guarantee the UK’s energy security. But without a coherent strategy to reduce the barriers to deliver these projects, as well as reforms to speed up planning decisions, consumers won’t feel the benefits of renewable energy quickly enough.

“The UK urgently needs a single agency for offshore wind development to coordinate leasing, consenting and vital issues such as grid connection and environmental protection – similar to the role the Oil and Gas Authority plays for that sector.”

The research also revealed that the continuing price rises have forced consumers to change their habits. Overall, 76 per cent of people surveyed said they were taking steps to reduce their current usage – 46 per cent said they were turning their heating down, and 43 per cent said they were wearing more layers of clothing around the house.

Almost a third, 29 per cent, said they were taking steps to install energy-efficient household solutions, such as smart meters (17 per cent) or permanent insulation (8 per cent).

But the government could do much more to help people reduce their bills and keep their homes warm and energy efficient, said Dr Hardy.

He said: “If I had any hair, I would be tearing it out at the lack of government attention on energy efficiency. The fastest way to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is to negate the need to burn them by improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. The additional upside is that it could help protect households and businesses against extreme energy price rises.

“As the survey says, many homes are already doing their bit on this, and I am truly baffled as to why it isn’t the government’s number one priority right now.”