DECC polling shows people still worried about energy bills, support renewable energy
- 09 Jul 2012, 17:15
- Ros Donald
According to new
survey figures, the rising cost of energy is still a major
concern in the UK, keeping energy bills high on the political
agenda. But efforts by some
political sources and
media outlets, attempts to blame higher consumer energy bills
on renewables subsidies - ignoring
rising gas prices - don't seem to have resonated with the
Research company TNS UK interviewed 2,121 people about energy and
climate issues during March this year for the Department of Energy
and Climate Change (DECC)'s Public Attitudes survey. The idea was
to gauge how the public sees what DECC calls its main "business
priorities" - goals such as energy efficiency, improving the UK's
energy infrastructure and increasing the amount of energy we
generate from low carbon sources.
The results show that despite high profile media campaigns against
so-called green taxes, 79 per cent of people surveyed support
renewable energy for providing electricity, fuel and heat. This
result appears to back up a poll - initially commissioned by the
Sunday Times - from last year that shows 56 per cent of people
asked want to see
more investment in onshore wind and other forms of renewable
It's also clear that energy bills are a big concern for many. 19
per cent of those asked said they were very worried about paying
their energy bills over the past three months, while 37 per cent
were fairly worried. But with 82 per cent of those polled agreeing
the UK needs a mix of energy sources to ensure its supply is
reliable, concern over energy bills doesn't appear to be leading to
a rejection of renewable power.
That said, energy and climate concerns don't top most of the
respondents' overall concerns, a trend probably reinforced by the
UK's current economic crisis. In contrast to unemployment, which 43
per cent of respondents counted as the biggest challenge facing
Britain today, only two per cent saw climate change as the biggest
threat the country faces, and only three per cent thought it was
The missing question
The enthusiasm for renewables, despite concerns about energy
bills, suggests the public might not be as susceptible to media
reports overstating green subsidies' contribution to rising
energy bills as one might suspect from the attention this framing
has received of late.
It's not just because this is our own personal
hobby horse, but this seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity
to ask what people really think on the issue, given that the
government is at present trying to decide the amount by which it's
going to cut subsidies to the wind sector. It's clear there's great
political interest in this question - there have been several
attempts to suggest wind subsidies are making people poorer.
And as we highlighted at the time, the Sunday Times
decided not to publish the results of its YouGov poll showing
support for renewables investment last year.
DECC's own advice suggests the onshore wind industry could
stand a 10 per cent cut in the support it receives from
Renewables Obligation Certificates, but the Treasury is
pushing for a 25 per cent reduction. It's starting to look like
the government is going to go for the latter option: according to a
DECC spokesman Roger Hargreaves speaking at the
Renewables 2012 conference in London last week, the decision on
the cut will hinge on "delivering value for money for the public"
as well as renewable energy obligations.
But do people blame renewables subsidies for higher energy bills?
How much investment in renewables would the public support? And
what does the public consider to be value for money? We still don't
know. As it stands, the Treasury appears to be backing a 25 per
cent cut in subsidies as a result
of campaigns by newspapers, politicians and commentators, but
perhaps not public opinion.
here to see DECC's results. It's going to repeat the exercise
to see how public attitudes change over the year.