New poll shows Scots strongly in favour of renewable energy

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  By a Newsnet reporter

A new poll has shown that Scots are strongly in favour of renewable energy, with 62% saying that they would support a large scale windfarm in their local district, and 80% in favour of a hydroelectric scheme.

Other forms of renewable energy also rate highly in Scottish public opinion, with 78% supporting a solar energy plant in their district, and 59% supporting a bio-energy plant.

However the two energy sources which the UK government favours, nuclear power and shale gas, score poorly amongst Scots.  Just 32% of those polled said that they would support a nuclear power plant in their district, while a mere 24% said they were in favour of shale-gas extraction or ‘fracking’.

The poll, commissioned by representative body Scottish Renewables, also found that more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of those who took part in the survey would prefer to see the majority of their electricity come from low carbon sources.

The Scottish government have welcomed the poll, which is timed to coincide with the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference.  The Scottish government believes that the poll demonstrates that the SNP’s policy of promoting renewable energy is popular with voters.  

Other findings from the poll suggested 64% of those who took part in the survey said they supported the ‘continued development of wind power as part of a mix of renewable and conventional forms of electricity generation.’ Only 20% were in disagreement.

In direct contradiction of the claims made by certain high-profile opponents of wind farms, more than two-thirds (69%) of those polled said their decision to visit an area of Scotland would not be affected by the presence of a wind farm.

Responding to the new poll results, Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said:

“The poll suggests a significant majority of people in Scotland are in favour of renewable energy, including when people were asked about developments in their local area.

“It is encouraging that when people were asked by YouGov about a range of energy sources the majority consistently chose renewables.

“The poll also suggests a group of people that oppose wind power, and other renewables, are a minority.

“While this polling evidence doesn’t mean that every renewable scheme proposed should be approved, it is important that people bear this research in mind when debating the pros and cons of the differing choices that Scotland could make to meet its future energy needs.”

Mr Stuart argued that the results show that people in Scotland understand the benefits that the renewable energy industry is delivering:

“It appears that people recognise that renewables plays to many of Scotland’s strengths, crucially our outstanding natural resources and the long and proud legacy of our energy industries – coal, then oil and gas, and now renewables.

“I think that people also understand that we are delivering.  Renewables generated more than a third of the electricity used in Scotland last year, supports more than 11,000 jobs, and are helping to cut harmful carbon emissions.

“What other industry can help us tackle climate change while creating jobs and investment on the scale of our renewable energy industry?”

Welcoming the findings, Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“Renewable energy is already playing a huge role in reducing Scotland’s climate change emissions.  It is great news that the vast majority of people support Scotland developing even more renewable energy schemes. These figures show the reality that, even for onshore windfarms there are only a small number of people who really don’t like them and few tourists are bothered about seeing them.

“Unconventional gas exploration, like fracking and the current coalbed methane proposals at Airth, are deeply unpopular, with most people preferring even a nuclear power station to shale gas in their area. Despite the wilder claims from the industry, unconventional gas is expensive and dirty, and clearly no vote winner. The Government should rule it out for Scotland.”

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green Party MSP for Lothian commented saying,

“It is no surprise renewables are generally popular – what is important is that the public get the maximum possible benefit from them. Scottish Greens believe that publicly – owned renewables are the way forward.

“Sadly we have a conservative-led Westminster Government determined to frack for unconventional gas and blow billions on unwanted nuclear with it’s legacy of toxic waste. If Scotland had complete control of energy policy we could ensure Scotland’s priorities aren’t compromised.

“The poll should serve as a wake up call for Scottish Labour who back new nuclear, and the SNP who haven’t taken a stand against fracking and remain relaxed about extending the life of existing nuclear plants.”

The Australian company Dart Energy have extracted coalbed methane from several test wells at Airth near Stirling and have applied for permission to extend their operations there.

SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee said:

“The clear result of this poll is that people across Scotland are enthusiastic about the enormous opportunities for jobs and investment that our renewables resources offer us. Having found a majority in favour of renewables in every part of Scotland, this poll shows that people in Scotland are firmly signed up to the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of generating the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

“As EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger made clear just a few weeks ago, Scotland can be a renewable powerhouse of Europe. People across Scotland want to make sure that we make the most of the leading role we can play and ensure that our economy benefits from the boost that renewables provides for generations to come.

“It is only because many of the key decisions on energy policy are already being made here in Scotland that we have been able to avoid some of the disastrous decisions on nuclear power being taken south of the border, allowing us to harness Scotland’s vast renewables potential to become an energy powerhouse in Europe.”