77% of the UK population supports renewable energy, with 66% supporting onshore wind and only 12% opposing it.
These are among the fascinating results of a new public opinion tracker conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to monitor public attitudes towards its policies. The survey was carried out in June and July and is an updated version of a previous survey carried out last March. In future, regular polling will be carried out quarterly.
The research covers all aspects of energy, with 2,100 households quizzed. Their answers reveal intriguing information about public attitudes to energy security and climate change.
Of energy in general, 74% of people are very or fairly concerned that the UK is too dependent on energy from other countries, but the public is most concerned about sharp rises in energy prices (84%).
71% are very or fairly concerned that the UK is not investing fast enough in alternative sources of energy, while 65% feel we are not doing enough to use existing sources of fossil fuels efficiently. About the same amount are worried that there won't be enough home-sourced supply of fossil fuels to meet the UK's demand.
The most popular form of renewable energy is solar power, at 82%.
These results give ammunition to those who want to promote energy efficiency, to use the energy we have more wisely and make it last longer; and it will also help those arguing that we should develop alternative forms of indigenous energy supply that will not run out, such as all forms of renewable energy and nuclear power.
But it could also be seized on by those wanting to exploit natural gas and shale gas.
When asked what is the biggest challenge facing Britain today, however, energy supply comes way down the list, with just 3% citing it, and climate change is cited by just 2%. Unemployment is considered by far the biggest challenge.
Climate change attracts slightly less concern than energy security, with 65% saying they were very or fairly concerned about climate change; 11% are not at all concerned.
When asked about the cause of climate change, 42%, by far the largest amount, think it's caused partly by natural processes and partly by human activity. Slightly less, 38%, think it is mainly or entirely caused by human behaviour.
Just 3% don't believe in it.
The results also show that there is still plenty of room for people to improve their energy saving behaviour. While 73% say that they give a 'lot' or a 'fair amount' of thought to saving energy in their home, when asked exactly what it is they do, the results do not bear this out.
41% said they'd left the heating on at least occasionally when going out for a few hours, and 69% seem to make no effort not to heat rooms they are not using.
Less people are worried about their energy bills than the last time the survey was done, with just 15% saying they were very worried and 32% fairly worried. Yet worry about energy bills comes higher than both worries about transport and food and other household costs.
Only 5% said they planned to switch supplier in the next year.
39% have replaced an old gas boiler with a more efficient condensing gas boiler.
There is still plenty of potential take-up for cavity wall insulation, with about 50% of cavities still unfilled in this sample.
By contrast, 81% have already installed double glazing, or are in the process of doing so, and 71% have topped up loft insulation. Just 11% have installed underfloor insulation and 6% solid wall insulation.
Only 6% have a smart meter, and 53% said they had never heard of them, meaning that there is a great deal of public education to be done by the Government before smart meters are introduced into every building in the country.
Disappointingly for those hoping energy monitors will support behaviour change, of those who have been given one by their supplier, only 46%, less than half, refer to it occasionally or everyday, and 16% never refer to it at all. Moreover, 30% have never even been offered one.
Perhaps surprisingly, less awareness-raising is required over the benefits of heat pumps. More than half of respondents had heard of them, both the air source and ground source types. Up to 75% of those have thought about installing one, and a similar proportion thought they didn't want to at the moment. Similar responses were given regarding installing a biomass boiler or a micro-CHP unit.
Views on nuclear power are split, with a third feeling that the benefits outweigh the risk, while 28% feel that the risks outweigh the benefits. 28% regard the risks and benefits as being about the same, with just 11% having no opinion.
64% of people had never heard of carbon capture and storage.
Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK, commented enthusiastically on the results by saying: “A whole series of independent opinion polls has proved time and time again in the last few months that the public has an enormous appetite for the development of renewable energy".
She said the results "will serve to boost confidence in our sector even higher. We welcome the fact that the Department of Energy and Climate Change has decided to quantify this level of support on an ongoing basis, as it provides strong justification for the all members of the government to support the greater deployment of renewables.”
Story: David Thorpe, News Editor