WHILST UK GOVERNMENT MINISTERS continue to say onshore wind is ‘unpopular’, the government’s own survey of the public finds eight in 10 people expressing support for the technology – over twice the number endorsing new nuclear.  The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is now urging the UK government to back onshore wind, particularly community-led developments.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has collected data every quarter since 2012, recording responses from the public to a range of energy related questions. The latest public attitude survey was carried out over the Winter of 2021/22 and published at the end of last month. The results reveal continued strong support for renewables, with onshore wind receiving a favourable response.

Contrary to the assertion that onshore wind is unpopular, only 4 per cent of those surveyed expressed opposition, with eight in 10 saying they supported it. In contrast, just 37 per cent of participants supported the development of nuclear energy, and only 17 per cent supported the resumption of fracking for shale gas.

The government’s own UK Energy Security Strategy concedes that ‘Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of renewable power’, yet there has been no public funding made available, nor any target for new generation set, with only a vague promise to “consult this year on developing local partnerships for a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for benefits, including lower energy bills”.

The Chair of the NFLA, Councillor David Blackburn, said: “Whilst the government now seems hell-bent on wasting vast amounts of public money in pursuing new nuclear plants as quickly as it can, despite the public’s opposition, it’s shows no identical alacrity in getting behind onshore wind, which actually does have public support. There is really no excuse for ministers not to just get on with it.

“We already have communities wanting to develop their own onshore wind projects, but they are being held back by planning regulation and difficulties in accessing resources. Despite these hurdles, the amazing residents of the Lawrence Weston Estate in Bristol, have, despite a wait of eight years and encountering many difficulties, raised an incredible £4 million to build Britain’s tallest wind turbine. At over 150 metres high, this will power 3,500 homes, make CO2 savings of almost 2,000 tons, and raise at least £100,000 a year for good causes, including supporting local projects tackling fuel poverty.”

Government research has identified that community-led developments, like Lawrence Weston’s, deliver 12-13 times the social value benefits that result from projects led by commercial developers, and the organisation Community Energy England estimates that around one third of its 220 affiliated local groups would be interested in an onshore wind project, if the circumstances were more favourable.

Councillor Blackburn concluded : “If the government was really serious about onshore wind it would ease the planning restrictions and red tape; provide access to start-up capital; and reintroduce financial incentives to encourage direct public investment, such as tax relief on share purchases in community energy co-operatives which bring solar, wind and hydro projects into being. In this way more of us would be in a better position to do our bit to build a greener, energy sustainable, energy secure Britain.”

* Read the BEIS Public Attitudes Survey Winter 2021 here.

* Source: Nuclear Free Local Authorities