The energy regulator Ofgem has recently published Energy Issues 2009: Survey of British Public Opinion. The survey was taken by Ipsos MORI last December.
Here are the main points I have taken from the Ipsos MORI report:
· The various forms of clean, renewable energy are most popular with the British public as sources of electricity. Coal is the least popular and nuclear energy comes second to bottom in the public’s scale of preferences. Hydro, tidal, wave, offshore wind and large scale solar power are very popular. But onshore wind energy lags behind the other renewable sources, which should come as no surprise after the negative media it has received over recent years. Anti-nuclear and anti-onshore wind campaigners should both approach these figures with some caution, however. The survey merely offers a scale of preferences, with no energy sources ruled out altogether. Respondents were not asked to make trade-offs between the options.
· People are more likely to consider gas and electricity in terms of their cost than their impact on emissions. The price of domestic energy is the most frequently mentioned concern overall, with 52% of first or second mentions. Next comes affordability for everyone eg the vulnerable, with 43%. In other words, the public may be more likely to see energy policy as being about “social” policy – or, perhaps, “fairness” – than the environment. Of the factors listed, “being able to save the environment by reducing emissions” comes in third, with 36% of first or second mentions. That’s a significant figure. So is the 39% of first or second mentions for saving costs by being energy efficient. Still, no less than £200 billion of investment is needed in the UK’s energy infrastructure over the coming decade and the potential cost to consumers is one of the biggest political headaches that the government faces in energy and climate change policy.
· Making sure that Britain can provide all the electricity and gas people want is least mentioned as a first or second level concern. Yet people are clearly concerned about Britain’s energy security. 69% are very or fairly concerned about future imports from abroad. Three in four are concerned about Britain running out of gas. So, future energy options need to be framed, at least in part, in terms of supply security.
· More surprisingly, barely more than half those surveyed recognise that the government is responsible for having enough gas and electricity. All sorts of culprits, such as energy suppliers and Ofgem, are in the frame and one in ten said they don’t know who is responsible. But the government would surely be the first to be blamed if there was ever a real energy supply crisis.
· Most people don’t seem to be very prepared to change their energy use behaviours. Respondents were asked to give their opinions of five energy-saving measures. As the report says:
there is considerable interest in some of the proposed energy saving measures, though none would find overwhelming majority acceptance, and some are unpopular.
Later, the report explains:
the option of heating water at different times of the day attracts the highest likelihood of adoption. This is followed by using appliances (dishwashers, washing machines etc) after midnight. Both of these options are thought very/fairly likely to be adopted by a (small) majority of the population. Slightly less popular is the concept of technology that would automatically switch off appliances when prices are high, though this still attracts more rating it as likely than unlikely. The public are evenly split on carrying out household tasks including cooking during cheaper periods. Least popular is the use of electric storage heaters – 47% rate this as very/fairly unlikely while only 35% see it as likely.