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July 21, 2013

Excerpts from British Survey of Attitudes Toward Energy Market Reform


Below are some excerpts from are recent public opinion survey on attitudes toward energy policy.

Renewable Energy

  • Among the British public we find a strong preference for a shift to renewable energy systems and a corresponding move away from fossil fuels. This is a relatively clear and stable preference in the sense that renewables are always the preferred way of supplying energy for a large majority of people. Nearly 80% of respondents included high levels of offshore wind energy and other renewables in their My2050 pathways (see Figure 1).

Wind Energy

  • Wind energy is viewed favourably by a majority of the British public, in line with a desire to move to a renewable energy system. As such, wind energy plays a key role in public energy pathways with significant support for both onshore and offshore wind farms (also see Figure 1).
  • We find higher levels of support for offshore wind farms compared to onshore wind farms.
  • Publics recognise that wind energy is a technology ready to be deployed at scale. Findings also indicate under-estimation of the extent to which wind energy can contribute to electricity generation in the UK.
  • There are mixed views on whether wind farms spoil the landscape, or are good for nearby communities.
  • In line with other research, our findings indicate that support for wind energy cannot be taken-for-granted. There is a need to pay close attention to the siting of wind farms, e.g. in terms of locations, ownership, and fair process (8).

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Fossil Fuels

  • . . . Whilst it is not true to say that publics are against CCS, we find significant concerns about its use. Negative attitudes towards CCS stems from the belief that it is not representative of progress; it is seen as a continuation of unsustainable practices associated with fossil fuels (i.e. this is another instance of perceived ‘non-transition’).

Nuclear Power

  • Unconditional acceptance of nuclear power as a form of electricity production is generally found to be low among the British public with concerns expressed in relation to the disposal of radioactive waste and risk of accidents.
  • There is greater support for replacement of existing facilities than for expansion. In the case of replacement, nuclear is seen as a temporary ‘stop-gap’ whilst renewable energy technologies are developed and deployed. Although some support for nuclear power in future energy systems is evident, a majority of people oppose nuclear power in their area.
  • The public is undecided on whether nuclear power should play a part in Britain’s energy mix (see Figure 1). Notably, acceptance is higher if nuclear power is placed in the context of an overall energy mix that also includes renewable energy.
  • Depending on how nuclear power is framed, public acceptability can increase (e.g. if framed as tackling climate change and energy security) but it can also decrease (e.g. when placed in contrast with renewables).
  • 66% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘I am willing to accept some nuclear power as long as we also focus on increasing renewable energy sources’.
  • 61% agree that promoting renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, is a better way of tackling climate change than nuclear power.

Transforming the UK Energy System – Public Values, Attitudes and Acceptability, July 2013, School of Psychology, Tower Building, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK, CF10 3AT.


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