A new survey conducted by UK pollsters YouGov has shown that support for renewable energy remains consistently strong in Britain whilst support for fossil fuels continues to decline.
However, the same survey shows that there is division over whether large scale fracking in the north of England should go ahead, and most people continue to support nuclear power.
It also points to distinct differences of opinion along age and political lines.
The survey found that over 70% of Brits are in favour of an increase in solar power and over 50% are in favour of an increase in wind farms. Conversely, less than 20% favour an expansion in the country’s oil, coal, or gas power stations.
Nuclear power continues to be seen as a necessary evil, with 40% of the population believing its provision should be expanded. This is possibly because those questioned do not believe renewables will be able to pick up the slack as fossil fuel power stations close.
A large area of shale gas was recently discovered in the north of England, estimated at 200 trillion cubic feet. If exploited, this could prove invaluable as Britain’s North Sea oil and gas runs out, but the public remains divided with 30% both for and against. This could be because of a lack of awareness about fracking’s environmental impact.
The poll also shows a rising cynicism amongst the public about the soaring costs of household energy bills. Nearly 60% of respondents said they believed the price rises were driven mainly by energy companies seeking larger profits, while only 17% thought it was down to the rising price of oil and gas.
In addition, the country’s energy companies are forced to give financial support to efficiency schemes to improve household insulation and heating boilers, but are allowed to pass the cost of this support on to their customers. Over 70% of people thought that this ability to pass on the cost was unjustified.
The most interesting set of figures in the detailed breakdown comes from the 18-24 year olds. They consistently buck the trend, being the only age group to favour wind farms over solar power and the only one to have over 50% firmly against an expansion in oil, gas and coal energy provision.
When divided by political allegiance the picture is clearer. Liberal Democrats are firmly the greenest whilst Conservatives are the only group where over 50% support an expansion in nuclear power. Labour voters are generally in between the two but have the greatest proportion supporting an expansion in coal-fired power stations (18%).
The survey’s full results (which covered more than energy policy) can be downloaded from the YouGov website (PDF).