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Thursday 20th February 2014

More than Three Quarters of the Public Back Renewable Energy

Guest post by Eve Pearce

New Government figures show solid support in Britain for renewables despite green efforts coming in for recent tongue-lashings from politicians and sections of the media. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has just released the results of its latest quarterly survey of public attitudes, which showed that 77% of adults support the use of renewable energy sources. This new data is more welcome news after previous figures issued last summer showed growth in the UK's green market, with renewables being the strongest sector.

It might have been expected that public backing would have slumped, following claims from energy giants that green subsidies add to their costs, together with negative comments from ministers. However, the Energy Department's latest summary of key findings, drawn from “wave 8” interviews carried out in December 2013, found the opposite. In fact there was a tiny rise in support from the previous quarter, wave 7, where 76% of people responding said they backed use of renewable energy to supply electricity, fuel and heat.

Support for Solar and Wind
The detail of the latest DECC findings showed that solar power had the greatest public support of any type of renewable energy, with 81% of people expressing backing and just 5% opposing the technology. These figures aren't all that surprising when you consider that around half a million homes in the UK have so far installed solar panels, cutting their own bills and selling surplus energy produced to the grid. In addition, unlike other green power sources, solar energy has recently been talked up by Government – with energy minister Greg Barker going so far as to claim that installing panels can beat pensions as an investment. Green energy firms such as Ecotricity are also using solar power on a more ambitious scale, by creating large sun parks to power homes and businesses.

Solar wasn't the only technology backed by survey respondents, as 64% of people supported onshore wind. While slightly down from 66% in the previous quarter, this is still a high figure, coming at a time when wind power has been subjected to an onslaught of criticism. Offshore wind achieved an even higher approval rating, at 72% of respondents. Wave and tidal power won 71% backing, while biomass held steady at 60% support, as in the previous quarter.

Energy Efficiency
As well as showing support for green energy sources, a large majority of respondents were interested in saving energy in their homes, with 75% saying they gave either “a lot” or “a fair amount” of attention to this issue. The topic of insulation wasn't included in the latest DECC survey, but previous questionnaires found that the majority of people had either already installed loft insulation or were intending to do so, as well as installing double glazing. There are hopes that more homes will carry out energy-saving improvements via the Government's Green Deal, which is being supported locally by Bristol City Council. It has launched a multi-million pound drive to save energy in the city during 2014 before it becomes European Green Capital in 2015. This includes insulating blocks of flats. Energy efficiency is also something which individual householders increasingly bear in mind when carrying out all types of improvements and repairs to homes in the Bristol area and across the UK.

Lack of Enthusiasm for Fracking
By contrast with the high levels of backing for renewables and energy-saving in the DECC survey, fracking was given an unenthusiastic response. As you'd expect after all the media coverage in recent months, there has been a rise in awareness of the issue – with 52% of people now aware of shale gas, compared to just 32% back in July 2012. However, only 27% of people supported fracking, while 21% opposed it – with almost half of respondents, 48%, saying they were undecided on the issue. This was the first time the questionnaire had included a question about levels of support. The low level of approval came despite David Cameron's backing for the technology and claims that it could cut energy bills. This is something he has stepped up in recent weeks since the research was carried out.

All in all, the survey showed that, despite all the much-publicised claims of public disillusionment with green issues, there is still a general support for renewables and energy-saving measures, but that fracking does not enjoy the same level of enthusiasm.

Monday, 20 January 2014

CSP in Saudi Arabia

An interview with Michelle Davies, head lawyer for all things renewable at the British law firm Eversheds. Michelle has worked with governments and companies across the Middle East on their solar and wind power


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