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Brit's would rather live near wind turbine than shale gas well, poll shows

08 September 2015

Calls for government to provide more support for community energy projects as UK public demonstrate strong support for renewables

Brit's would rather live near wind turbine than shale gas well, poll shows

Nearly 70 per cent of UK households support the rollout of locally owned renewable energy projects, according to new research by Co-Operative Energy.

The survey, which questioned more than 2,000 UK adults during August 2015, and was released late last week, found strong support among the UK public for small-scale renewable energy schemes, particularly those that are community-led.

The survey was released as part of Community Energy Fortnight - an event to promote community energy schemes around the country organised by the Community Energy Coalition.

Nearly 80 per cent would like to see the government provide more support for local communities that want to generate their own energy, with profits staying in the local area. Support was consistently high, above 70 per cent, across all age groups, social classes and geographical locations.

Meanwhile, more than half of UK households, 53 per cent, said they would support the construction of a wind turbine within two miles of their home and nearly two-thirds said they would support a solar farm project within two miles of their home.

Ramsay Dunning, general manager at Co-operative Energy, said the findings "fly in the face" of those who regard the British public as "nimbys" who object to energy projects being located close to their homes.

"There is a real appetite among the general public alike to see renewable energy grow and prosper, but with more emphasis on community energy schemes that allow local communities to share the rewards," he said.

The strong support public for renewables will come as boost for clean energy firms, which have faced a gruelling summer as the government removed large swathes of subsidy support for wind and solar projects.

However, Dunning described the government's decision to withdraw its support from the renewable sector as "extremely disappointing" and "at odds with popular opinion".

Ministers maintain they remain firmly committed to meeting the UK's emissions reduction goals, but insist the changes are urgently required to ensure the government does not breach its budget for clean energy spending, leading to increased upward pressure on energy bills.

Paul Monaghan, sustainability adviser for Co-operative Energy, called on the government to protect community energy schemes from subsidy cuts. "We need to see that the pre-accreditation process for community energy groups can continue," he told BusinessGreen, referencing proposed changes that would remove the ability for schemes to secure a guaranteed tariff before construction begins.

When asked about their favourite source of electricity, solar emerged as a clear winner among respondents, chosen by 30 per cent of people. Nuclear (15 per cent) and gas (13 per cent) followed in second and third place. Shale gas was named as the most unpopular electricity source, with 22 per cent of people naming it their least preferred source.

The results echoes recent surveys published by DECC and Good Energy, which both highlight the UK public's strong support for solar power and distrust of fracking. 

The survey results also suggested shale gas is unpopular among Conservative supporters. When asked whether they would rather have a wind turbine erected or a shale gas well drilled within two miles of their home, 58 per cent of people who affiliated themselves with the Conservatives preferred a wind turbine, while just 23 per cent opted for the shale gas well. Overall, 65 per cent of all people preferred a wind turbine over a shale gas well.

Such results are at odds with recent government policy, which has seen ministers pledge to "fast-track fracking" while cutting subsidies for onshore wind and changing planning regulations to make the construction of new onshore wind farms much more difficult.