Wind industry survey shows negative media impact on public understanding

A survey of 2,000 adults carried out by OnePoll and commissioned by trade association RenewableUK has found that the British public has been taken in by negative publicity aimed at undermining the wind industry.

The survey shows that the UK public think subsidies for wind power are more than 14 times higher than they actually are and also found that those surveyed underestimated the extent of public support for wind energy in the country.|

Despite the findings, recent assertions by the renewable industry on comparisons with subsidies afforded to the fossil fuel sector have been challenged.
Maria McCaffery
The head of Brussels-based coal lobby, Euracoal, told Power Engineering International that coal power subsidies are scheduled to be phased out by 2018, while renewables will continue to benefit.

The OnePoll survey reveals the average estimate for the amount paid in subsidies from the average household bill stood at à‚£259, more than 14-fold higher than the à‚£18 a year currently paid per household to support wind energy.

And while government surveys have shown that public support for onshore wind farms has been steady at between 65 and 70 per cent for several years, the survey shows respondents believing that level of support to be just under 40 per cent.

“These independent polls show there are considerable misconceptions about the cost of supporting wind energy – it’s much lower than people think, at just 35p a week per household,” said RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery (above right) in a statement. “It’s also revealing to see that wind has almost double the amount of public support than was estimated.

“This suggests that the loud voices of a small minority, too often perpetuated by negative rhetoric in some parts of the media, are trying to distort the facts. The truth is that the vast majority of the British population – 70 per cent – are pro-wind power.”

The survey also revealed that people tend to overestimate the technical challenges wind turbines face, overestimating how much wind is needed for them to operate and overestimating how often they are unable to generate power.
Brian Ricketts
The poll findings have been released a week after Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association told a gathering in London that subsidies to fossil fuels were on a par with those afforded to renewables. She told the Westminster Energy Forum that she had recently picked up a 150-page report documenting direct and indirect subsidies afforded to fossil fuels.

“The European Renewable Energy Federation’s Transparency report compared how many subsidies were awarded to all the different industries ” renewables gets its fair share but direct and non-direct subsidies to fossil power are almost on a par ” in particular with gas.”

Brian Ricketts,(aboveà‚  left) the secretary-general of Brussels-based Euracoal responded to her comments by telling Power Engineering International that “Dr Skorupska is allowing rhetoric from the renewables industry to cloud her judgement of the facts.”

By way of evidence, Mr Ricketts sent PEi a copy of a document, entitled Prospects for European Domestic Hard Coal Production Post Subsidies.

“It shows that coal industry subsidies in the EU have declined and will end by 2018.à‚  Renewable subsidies continue to grow, to €20bn each year in the case of Germany. There are often good reasons for a subsidy, but to build a new energy system based on subsidies does not seem very sensible.”

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