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"... Something like 69% of the public support onshore wind—it is the most popular of the renewable energy-generating supply technologies"
Caroline Flint MP, 22 June 2015
While the Energy Bill progresses through the Lords, our attention has been snagged by a slightly older claim. Just how popular are onshore wind farms? While some surveys show that people don't object to their construction nearby, overall support is higher for other forms of renewable generation, like solar and tidal power.
70% of respondents to a survey said they'd be happy to have a wind farm built in their local area
The former Shadow Secretary of State for Energy's figure comes from a survey by Survation, conducted in October 2013. 1,000 people in Great Britain were given two statements, and asked which was closest to their opinion. The options were:
"I would be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area"
"I would not be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area"
70% of the respondents chose the first option, with the remaining 30% indicating that they weren't keen on a wind farm nearby. While this does indicate that people are more likely to support the construction of a wind farm nearby than oppose it, it's not the same as supporting onshore wind more generally.
It's possible to be pleased about the construction of a wind farm in your local area—with the potential for extra jobs and income that implies—without supporting a broader roll out of wind across the country. Similarly, while people might feel that onshore wind farms are the best option for future generation, they might not be too keen on one being installed in their back garden.
More generally, it's important not to draw too strong a conclusion from this survey. The participants weren't offered the option to say they didn't have a strong view on the matter and the type of wind farm to be built wasn't specified. People's answers could change with the size of a proposed installation. People's answers might also depend on whether they live in a coastal area where offshore wind farms might be viable, and on precisely where the farm would be built. It's also worth noting that the size of a 'local area' isn't defined.
Some questions in the same survey indicated a more ambivalent stance on wind power. Ms Flint referenced this survey in a debate about the Renewables Obligation—a form of subsidy for renewable technology—closing for onshore wind a year earlier than previously planned.
The survey did include a question about the Renewables Obligation. After being told that the Renewables Obligation required companies to purchase more energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power—and that it added £33 to their bills—36% of respondents said that it should be continued, while 41% stated it should be scrapped.
Onshore wind isn't the most popular renewable technology
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) runs a 'tracking survey' of public attitudes. Among other questions, it asks whether people support or oppose the use of various renewable energy sources.
At the time Ms Flint was speaking, the most recent data (for March 2015) showed that about 65% of respondents to the survey supported the use of onshore wind. While this was enough to beat biomass (63%), support for onshore wind lagged offshore wind (73%), wave and tidal power (74%) and solar power (81%).