Wind more popular than nuclear poll reveals
By Robin Whitlock on July 4th, 2012
According to a YouGov opinion poll, ironically paid for by the French nuclear giant EDF, the public favour wind power over nuclear and fossil fuels. The results are similar to other polls carried out earlier in the year, which is a bit of a problem for the government.
Although nuclear power has survived the clamour over the Fukushima disaster the survey shows that a clear majority of the British public are in favour of wind power as a means of maintaining a stable but clean energy future. Nuclear however follows close behind.
The results are broadly confirmed by other surveys such as the Guardian/ICM poll. In April for example, a RenewableUK survey found that 67% of adults in the UK are in favour of wind with only 8% opposed. At the time RenewableUK greeted the results saying that it would be undemocratic for the government to allow the anti-wind element to derail the country’s renewable energy programme and that such efforts to undermine green energy would also damage the economy. Over the past year or so elements of the Conservative party, among others, have called for subsidies for wind to be slashed despite the fact that fossil fuels and nuclear receive much greater subsidies. Other voices, such as those in the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have opposed wind on aesthetic grounds, claiming that wind farms spoil the English landscape.
The EDF poll reveals that about 40% of respondents felt favourably towards nuclear but 58% supported wind. This marks a considerable drop in wind power’s fortunes as it the figure was as high as 75% back in 2008 but Damian Carrington, writing about the poll in his Guardian blog mostly blames this on a fall in community ownership.
When the survey asks about the disadvantages of the different methods of electricity generation, nuclear is definitely not seen as the best option although price volatility is seen as more of a problem for gas than for nuclear and wind. Nuclear is seen as by far the worst in terms of safety considerations, unsurprisingly, alongside waste disposal and vulnerability to terrorists. Wind is seen as a blot on the landscape and also scores badly for intermittency despite the fact that the latter objection is easily resolvable as demonstrated by Denmark’s wind energy programme which is currently aiming for 50% electricity generation by 2020. Nuclear also scores badly on ‘dangerous pollution’ as does gas.
An interesting finding is that despite concerns over a perceived ‘energy gap’ later on in the decade, people generally still favour wind over nuclear and gas. Carrington interprets all this as providing reliable evidence that the British public understand the issues reasonably well and thus also understand the benefits of renewable energy and the disadvantages of nuclear and fossil fuels. That is a hopeful sign and presents a bit of a problem for the government with its current support for nuclear and its ‘dash for gas’.