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Concern about climate change seems to be a driver of this clean energy push, with 71% saying they are very or fairly concerned
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Politicians take note (if you want our vote)... Renewables are now more popular than ever

Joe Ware

If UK politicians want to reunite the country and garner votes they'd do well to embrace renewables in their manifestos, writes JOE WARE

Onshore wind is backed by nearly three quarters of the public (73%), with offshore even more popular at 79% while solar has almost universal support at 86%

During election time, everyone wants to know what the public think. Polls abound trying to gauge our mood on a host of different issues so it's good to see that public support for wind and solar is at an all-time high according to the results of a quarterly tracking survey conducted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

And as all parties finalise their manifestos they would do well to take heed the findings.

Onshore wind is backed by nearly three quarters of the public (73%), with offshore even more popular at 79% while solar has almost universal support at 86%.  Less well-known renewables are also popular with wave and tidal power supported by 79% of the public.  These are all record highs since the tracking started in 2013. 

Even biomass, another lower carbon energy source, is at its highest favourability level of 66%, with only 6% opposed. In fact only 1% of the population is ‘strongly opposed' to renewables the survey found.

Concern about climate change seems to be a driver of this clean energy push, with 71% saying they are very or fairly concerned. The economic and environmental case for renewables has long been clear.  Getting ourselves off polluting fossil fuels is essential if we're to meet our international obligations to decarbonise and create an energy system fit for the 21st century.  And as far back as 2015 onshore wind became the cheapest form of electricity, beating fossil fuels even without subsidies.  

For a long time it was believed opposition to renewables came from the ‘nimbyism' of not wanting to look at wind turbines outside the back window. But this seems to be changing with 6 out of 10 people (58%) saying they would be happy to have a large-scale renewable energy development in their area. Seventy per cent recognised that renewable industries and developments provide economic benefits to the UK.

The overwhelming support for renewables is even more stark when compared with the results for other energy options. Nuclear is pretty stable with 38% in favour and 22% against, but things really start to drop off when the public were asked about fracking: Only 19% offered support, with 30% opposed and 49% indifferent. The most common reason for opposing fracking was the loss or destruction of the natural environment at 56 per cent, which shows that there remains a high level of concern among the public for environmental protection in Britain.

The tide is clearly flowing in favour of ditching fossil fuels, not only here in the UK but also abroad.  Both Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, the two candidates in the run to be the next French President, have promised to ban fracking.  Front runner, Macron, has also come out strongly for renewables promising to double wind and solar capacity by 2022.   

China's big push for renewables is well known but even in Trump's United States the growth of renewables is striking. There are already more jobs in US solar than in generating electricity through coal, oil and gas combined and renewables are generating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.  

Like in the UK, clean energy is a hit with people across the political spectrum. If deep red Texas was its own country it would be the sixth largest generator of wind power and there are now more renewable energy projects in Republican districts than Democrat ones.

Elections are naturally divisive times for a country - this one more so than usual following the EU referendum which split the UK down the middle. But for all parties looking to find policies for their manifestos that receive widespread support and unite the country, they need look no further than embracing renewables and accelerating the big shift from dirty to clean energy.

This Author

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid and a New Voices contributor to The Ecologist. He is on twitter @wareisjoe 

 

 

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