Renewables retain strongest public support as UK energy source

Fossil fuels and renewablesThe latest results from the quarterly survey of public opinions on UK energy issues (‘Wave-16’) have been published by the Dept for Energy (DECC) including:

  • Energy bills
  • Renewable energy
  • Shale gas
  • Nuclear energy
  • Energy saving, and
  • Energy security.

 Each energy source has pros and cons, and has a varying degree of ‘solution’ to the energy tri- or quadrillemas.

The full data is available here with the headline summaries published below.

Energy bills, switching and suppliers

Worries over paying for energy bills have remained relatively stable since wave 14. At Wave 16, 25% were either very or fairly worried about paying for their energy bills.

At this point last year when wave 12 was conducted, this percentage was higher at 31%. Similarly to wave 14 and 15, worries about energy bills at wave 16 were at their highest amongst 25-34 year olds (31%), social grade DE (35%), private renters (38%), social renters (33%), and those with household incomes under £16,000 (37%).


Renewable energy

Support for renewable energy has been consistently high during the tracker at around 75-80%. This pattern has continued at wave 16, with 78% expressing support for the use of renewables.

Opposition to renewables was very low at 4%, with only 1% strongly opposed. Support for renewables is particularly high for people in social grade AB (86%), social grade C1 (82%), those with incomes over £35,000 (86%), those aged between 35 -54 (83%) and those who give a lot or a fair amount of thought to saving energy in the home (83%).

Support is lower amongst social grade DE (69%) and social renters (65%).


Shale gas

Just under three quarters of the public were aware of fracking at wave 16 (74%). This compares with 77% at wave 15. Awareness of fracking has remained stable over the last 18 months, following a significant increase between wave 2 (42%) and wave 8 (70%).

However, at wave 16 only 15% claimed to know a lot about it, compared to 43% saying they knew a little, and 16% saying they were aware of it but didn’t really know what it was. Awareness of fracking was higher for over 45s (87%), social grade AB (92%), males (81%), incomes over £35,000 (87%), and people in rural areas (81%).

When asked whether they support or oppose extracting shale gas, just over four in ten of the public neither supported nor opposed it (44%). This is most likely a reflection of the lack of knowledge people have about fracking.

Amongst those that were only aware of fracking (but knew nothing about it), or that hadn’t heard of it, over 60% selected the neutral option or ‘don’t know’ when asked if they support or oppose its use.

Two additional questions were introduced at wave 16, asking people to identify reasons why they support or oppose fracking.

Of the 496 people asked who supported fracking, the three most commonly cited reasons were:

  • Needing to use all available energy sources (35%)
  • Reducing dependence on conventional fossil fuels (34%) and
  • Reducing dependence from other countries for UK’s energy supply (32%).

Of the 596 people asked who opposed fracking, the most common reason by far was the loss/destruction of natural environment (61%). Beyond this, the next most common reasons cited were the risk of contamination to the water supply (32%), and fracking being too much of a risk/uncertainty to support at present (25%).


Nuclear energy

Support for the use of nuclear energy has remained stable since wave 15. At Wave 16, over a third (36%) supported nuclear energy compared to 21% who were opposed. This is not as high as support has been in previous waves, where it peaked at 42% at waves 9 and 11.

Those with an income over £50,000 (47%), in social grade AB (44%), and male (46%) were the most likely to support the use of nuclear energy. A significant proportion (41%) selected the neutral option at this question, to indicate that they neither support nor oppose the use of nuclear energy.


Energy saving and wasting

The proportion of people who claim to give thought to saving energy in the home remained stable between wave 15 and wave 16. The proportion claiming to give a lot of thought to saving energy at home remained at 24%, whilst half claimed to give it a fair amount of thought (50%).


Energy Security

Concerns in relation to the UK’s future energy security have remained fairly stable at Wave 16. Aside from a slight change in concern over power cuts becoming more frequent, all measures remained consistent.

On power cuts becoming more frequent, concern increased slightly from 42% up to 45%. This follows a significant decrease from 52% down to 42% between wave 14 and 15.

In contrast, concern over steep energy price rises in the future has remained stable at wave 16, at 68%. There was stability over other aspects of future energy security as well.

Concern over supplies of fossil fuels remained stable at 57%. There was also no change in levels of:

  • Concern in relation to the UK becoming too dependent on energy from other countries (66%)
  • The UK not investing fast enough in alternative sources of energy (63%), and
  • The UK not developing technology to use existing sources of fossil fuels sufficiently (55%).

The results shown here are based on 2,121 face-to-face in-home interviews conducted with a representative sample of UK adults aged 16+. Fieldwork was conducted between 9 December 2015 and 13 December 2015 on the TNS UK Omnibus, which uses a random location quota sampling method.

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