By Zoë Casey
If you are a follower of the press and politics in the UK you might be forgiven for thinking that the country is against wind energy – but a new survey proves exactly the opposite. The survey – carried out by the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in March 2014 – showed that 70% of respondents supported onshore wind energy, with 12% against it. Offshore wind energy received even greater levels of support – with 77% in favour and just 7% against.
For renewable energy sources in general, 80% of the public said they support the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat. Moreover, six in ten people said they would be happy to have a large scale renewable energy development in their area. To compare, 29% of the public support the extraction of shale gas.
Meanwhile, the British are becoming more and more aware of the energy security and climate change risk facing the country. According to the DECC survey, “energy security and climate change are now ranked joint fourth in a list of the biggest challenges facing the UK today, up from eighth and ninth places respectively in March 2012.
Some elements of the UK’s political spectrum appear not to be aware of the high level of public support – many Conservatives have hinted that they will introduce a cap on the number of new wind farms if they are elected in the general election next year, despite onshore being the most affordable renewable energy technology.
“The debate in the UK has become overly negative,” said Thomas Becker, CEO of EWEA, in an interview with the BBC. “You could be having British wind turbines providing electricity for Britain and other parts of the EU. And you wouldn’t be so dependent on Mr Putin and the Middle East,” he was quoted as saying.
EWEA supports an EU-wide target of 30% renewable energy in the overall energy supply by 2030 as a strong means to increase energy security in Europe. The 30% target would build on the current legally-binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. EWEA statistics show that an ambitious 30% target would mean more green growth and jobs (investments of €25.3 billion and 795,000 jobs by 2030 in the wind sector), and lower dependency on fossil fuel imports and better energy security (€51 billion of avoided fuel costs in 2030).