Coins stacking up to represent rising costs of energy

Public attitude towards renewables, climate change and rising energy prices

Government survey results shed light on public opinions towards climate change, renewable energy and rising energy bills

UK Government body, The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, published a paper recently containing some interesting insights regarding public attitude towards energy & climate change in the UK.

The paper presents a collection of findings taken from 2,180 face-to-face in-home interviews in April this year. The survey of which the paper belongs to began in March 2012, and the recent publication draws primary comparison from the study a year prior (March 2016).

Climate Change

Starting on a positive note, seven in ten of the interviewed subjects (71%) were either very, or fairly concerned about climate change. Obviously, vast public concern isn’t a good thing. It’s not a great situation to be in when three quarters of the representative group felt concerned about climate change and what it will mean for the future.

However, concern drives change, and whilst this may not be good, it is positive – with 79% of the candidates expressing support for the use of renewables, and 58% stating they would be happy to have a large scale renewable development in their own area. Opposition to renewables was very low at 4%, with only 1% strongly opposed. On top of this, almost a quarter (21%) stated that they had thought about buying an electric vehicle. So according to the survey, current public attitude towards tackling climate change is very progressive.

Rising Energy Bills

What the report also shed light on, however, was peoples increasing fear surrounding rising energy bills. People’s concern over ‘steep rises in energy prices in the future’ has increased by 8% over the course of the last year, with 73% of the interviewed candidates now worried about the price of energy increasing – and rightly so.

As most will be aware, ‘the big 6’ energy suppliers have recently increased their prices by roughly 15%. Whilst this alone is cause for concern, it is highly unlikely that the price rises will stop there.

For a start, the cost of Hinkley Point C, the UK’s new nuclear power plant project, is yet to be reflected in consumer energy prices. On top of this, in order for the UK to accommodate for a modern, decentralised, sustainable use of energy – whereby generation comes from a multitude of sources, including renewables and low-carbon, and likely more energy storage facilities – the UK’s energy grid needs significant improvements. There is a history of under-investment in the grid, so these improvements will not be cheap, and will be reflected in consumer energy prices.

That’s why there will never be a better time than now to invest in solar.

The Solar Solution

As well as eliminating emissions and aiding in the prevention of climate change – solar PV is an excellent way to ensure stability and control over energy prices. So if you are part of the majority and are concerned about climate change and rising energy bills, solar PV can act as a solution for both.

If done right, the cost of installing solar panels will always be met and exceeded by the money they save on your electricity bill. In other words, by using free solar energy instead of purchasing it from the grid, you will save more money than you spent to have the system installed. This is true already with energy prices as they are currently.

When you consider energy prices are set to rise significantly, not only will solar panels promise energy stability, the savings they generate will increase in line with the rise in electricity prices.

Solar South West also offer a selection of funding options for the installation of solar PV, which will increase the cost effectiveness of a new solar system even further.

The dilemma faced by UK government, and our opportunity as members of the public

What is perhaps most interesting about the study is, although government intentions are in line with the publics, the solutions available to the concerns raised are not.

The survey is conducted by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), a department which was formed from the amalgamation of The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and The Department for Energy and Climate change last year.

It is safe to assume that the data collected in a survey conducted by BEIS, is going to hold some significance over the department’s attitudes, if not policies, towards the issues raised within the survey – e.g. climate change, energy stability, and so on.

In other words, in order for the government to be able to make decisions in line with the needs of the public, they need to know public opinion surrounding certain issues. So they collect data. This is expressed by BEIS themselves in the report, where it is written that ‘In March 2012 the Department of Energy and Climate Change launched a tracking survey to understand and monitor public attitudes to the Department’s main business priorities.’

However, the Government is faced by a problem that the general public is not. To the UK government, renewable energy and consumer energy bills are often posed in direct conflict.

In order to invest further in renewables, as mentioned earlier, significant improvements are needed to the UK’s energy grid. These improvements will be paid for by the consumer through increased energy prices. So essentially, renewables mean network improvements, and network improvements mean higher bills.

With this in mind, we can assume that BEIS are gathering data and using it, at least in part, to inform the decisions they must face when it comes to low energy prices vs cleaner energy production. But you don’t have to!

To the consumer, the installation of solar PV will eliminate a large portion of your emissions, but probably more importantly on a personal level – it will generate savings and ensure energy security. As members of the public, we have an opportunity that the government do not: to contribute both towards the reduction of emissions, and towards the stability of our energy bills, through one solution – the installation of our own renewable generation.

For more information surrounding the potential benefits of solar PV, get in touch with the Solar South West team, who will be happy to answer any queries you may have.

To read the mentioned report yourself, see here.