The telephone survey of 1949 adults was conducted by GfK NOP Social Research in March, and builds on findings from previous annual surveys conducted by DECC’s predecessor departments, DTI and BERR. It included solar, hydroelectric, wind, biofuel, landfill gas, biomass / bioenergy, tidal, wave and geothermal among the sources of renewable energy.
Over the four waves of research, there has been little variation in the level of overall support for the use of renewable energy, the report notes. Of all respondents, 85% say they support renewables but, this year, 60% say they ‘strongly’ agree compared with 55% who said ‘strongly’ agree in 2008.
When disaggregated by gender, 91% of men said they support the use of renewable energy compared with 80% of women, a difference that has remained consistent since tracking began, although this latest survey shows the greatest difference yet between the sexes in terms of levels of agreement with the statement.
The age group of 65 and over was most likely to disagree with the statement (8% disagreed compared with 4% of respondents under age 65), which is consistent with previous surveys. There was an increased level of awareness of various sources of renewables among the 16-to-24 age group (with the exception of biomass or bioenergy), although the increase was statistically significant only for two renewable sources: biofuel and landfill gas.
Recognition of at least one source of renewable energy has remained high across all four waves of research, with only 3% of the sample not recognising any of the sources that were read to them during the survey. Among the 65-plus group, this increased to 7%, making that age group the least aware of any type of renewable energy source.
The oldest age group tended to have a more negative view of renewable energy than younger age groups and were more likely to disagree with support for renewable energy use, least likely to favour wind power and least likely to support government policy and EU targets. By contrast, slightly younger age bands (45-to-54 and 55-to-64) were the most likely to agree that they would support government policy and the EU targets.
The report, Renewable Energy Awareness & Attitudes Research 2009, was commissioned by DECC to explore public perceptions of renewable energy in Britain and to measure the level of awareness of renewables and assess attitudes.
For every type of renewable energy source suggested in the survey, at least half of the public claimed to recognise it, with highest recognition for solar, hydroelectric and wind technologies. The public still see television, newspapers and radio as the primary influencers of views on renewables and this influence has grown since last year. National television continues to be seen the biggest influence and the media type reporting the most favourable views.
“Support for the use of renewable energy has remained at the same high levels as reported in previous waves of the research, with 85% agreeing that they support it,” the report concludes. When asked in the context of whether they favoured renewables as an alternative to fossil fuel, slightly fewer were ‘totally in favour’ this year.
“Generally speaking, attitudes towards renewable energy have stayed the same since 2008; agreement with the statement pertaining to renewable energy being too costly has not risen as it did between 2007 and 2008,” it adds. “One might have expected a further rise, given that the economic climate is such an issue in many people’s minds, yet it seems that people value the benefits of renewable energy and are happy to sustain their level of support despite the economic recession.”