Just 1% of UK ‘strongly opposed’ to renewables, finds government survey

Labour accuses Theresa May of being among the tiny ‘rump’ of people who don’t like cheap and clean solar and wind energy

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Thursday 04 May 2017 10:24 BST
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Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity
Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity

Just 1 per cent of the public are “strongly opposed” to renewable energy, according to a new Government survey.

The poll found a further 4 per cent were simply “opposed” to solar, wind and other such forms of electricity generation, but both groups were massively outnumbered by supporters of renewables.

Some 79 per cent said they were in favour of clean and green energy, a figure close to the 71 per cent who said they were “very or fairly concerned” by climate change.

Under the Conservative Government, there has been an official policy to “halt the spread” of new onshore wind farms, even though this is now one of the cheapest forms of electricity.

The survey found support from the public for onshore wind had hit a record level, with 73 per cent in favour and just 9 per cent against.

The solar industry, again producing one of the cheapest forms of electricity, has also been plunged into crisis because of the withdrawal of virtually all subsidies, an astonishing business rate increase of up to 800 per cent on commercial rooftop panels, and the imposition of red tape.

Currently no form of electricity generation can be built without some kind of subsidy and fossil fuels receive considerable support from the taxpayer – a coal-fired power station in Wales blamed for thousands of deaths was recently given a £10m subsidy for just a year’s electricity.

Leonie Greene, of the Solar Trade Association, told The Independent: “The British public are strongly behind renewables, people of all political parties.

“It is something that does unite Britain in a rather divided time. It’s a very clear love of renewables and a recognition of their importance.

“All we want is, at the minimum, a level playing field with conventional energy because we don’t have that.”

She urged the next Government to “move fast to get renewables back on track in the UK so they can deliver the cheap, clean power we need”.

Mark Sommerfeld, policy analyst at the Renewable Energy Association, said the survey “demonstrates that the nation remains resolutely in favour of renewable energy”.

“The political parties during this election must demonstrate the same commitment,” he said.

“Manifesto writers should heed public opinion and set out how they will make the most of solar, wind and biomass – now amongst the cheapest forms of generation; as well as taking advantage of the UK’s world leading expertise, across the complete range of innovative clean technologies, to grow the industry creating both jobs and new export opportunities.”

Juliet Davenport, chief executive of renewable energy company Good Energy, said: “This survey is a clear message to any new government that climate change is a prime concern among the electorate and that they should listen to public opinion, champion renewable energy and make the UK a world leader in clean, green technology.”

Labour’s Barry Gardiner, the shadow International Trade Secretary, who speaks on climate change issues, said the survey showed “enormous support for renewable energy from the British public”.

“It is just a pity that the Prime Minister and her Cabinet appear to be in the rump 5 per cent who actually oppose renewables,” he added.

“Why else would they have introduced an eight-fold rise in business rates for companies who put solar panels on their roofs?

“People want clean energy. Government needs to understand that and clean up its act.”

According to a Government report in November, which may already be out of date due to the sharp fall in costs, solar and onshore wind were expected to become the cheapest forms of electricity in the next few years.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said a solar project commissioned next year was predicted to cost between £62 and £84 per megawatt hour (MWh), with onshore wind coming in at £49 to £79/MWh.

This compares with between £60 and £62 for the cheapest form of gas and £154 to £166 for a more expensive gas system.

By 2030, the gap dramatically widens, with the cheapest gas costing about £100/MWh compared with solar at £52 to £73 and onshore wind at £45 to £72.

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