BEIS PAT 2020: Strong support shown for renewable energy

The Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) survey looks into public attitudes towards Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) policies including climate change, artificial intelligence, workers’ rights and much more.

Originally started in March 2012, this survey runs four times a year with questions on issues where attitudes are expected to shift more quickly or be affected by seasonal changes repeated on this quarterly basis – other questions are asked annually.

The findings from March 2020 (Wave 33), collected between 11 March and 17 March using face-to-face-in-home interviews of 1,851 adults, appear to show changing attitudes towards the environment and renewables, suggesting that there will be a higher demand for installers of renewable solutions.

Stable support for renewables

In March 2020, levels of support for renewable energy remained stable at 82%. These levels have remained between 74% – 85% since the question was first asked in March 2012.

The majority of the public continued to support each of the renewable energy sources included in the tracker in March 2020: solar (86%, off-shore wind (81%), wave and tidal (80%), on-shore wind (77%) and biomass (68%).

Nuclear energy support reaches new low

32% of the public supports nuclear energy, reaching its lowest point across the tracker, continuing a downward trend in support since September 2014 (42%), however the proportion who opposed nuclear energy remained stables at 23%.

Initially, it seems as though the public may have turned against nuclear energy, but 41% of those asked were shown to neither support nor oppose it, showing a continuation of a longer-term upward trend since September 2012 (34%), suggesting that many of those asked have no feelings either way.

Opposition to fracking reaches highest point

Awareness of fracking remained stable at 78%, with levels unchanged since December 2018. However, opposition to fracking reached its highest point across the tracker at 45% this year, while support reached its lowest at 8%.

Neither for nor against also remained stable however at 45%.

Awareness of carbon capture and storage soars

46% of those asked had awareness of carbon capture, compared to having previously remained at 36%-41%. Just over 62% who had awareness said they supported it.

Energy saving and wasting

80% of people claimed to give at least a fair amount of thought to saving energy in their home.

Being smart about smart metres

Awareness of smart metres reached a peak of 89% in March 2020, having increased gradually from 47% in March 2012.

Although the above appears to suggest changing attitudes in some areas, the below suggests that there is still a way to go until the climate crisis and ambition to reach net zero is adopted more widely.

New question on net zero

A question on to understand the public’s awareness of net zero was added in March 2020 – the proportion of those who had any awareness of ‘net zero’ was 35%.

Climate change

Although awareness of net zero was rather low, awareness of climate change was reassuringly high.

76% of the public said they were either very concerned (35%) or fairly concerned (41%) about climate change, a fall from the peak of 80% observed in March 2019.

Almost half of the public (47%) said that climate change is either entirely (17%) or mainly (30%) caused by human activity, remaining at its highest point since the question was first asked.

Among all people apart from the 2% who did not believe in climate change:

  • 68% thought that climate change is already having an impact in the UK.
  • 56% thought that climate change is currently affecting people in their local area, 79% thought it was affecting people in the UK and 86% thought it was affecting people in other countries.
  • The largest expected impact over the next 15 to 20 years was rising sea levels or more flooding (61%), followed by more extreme events such as storms (53%) and rising temperatures or hotter summers (52%).
  • More people thought that the government should have the most responsibility for tackling the effects of climate change in the UK (47%) compared with the general public (25%) and businesses (11%).

The ambition for net zero coupled with increasing awareness of and support for renewable solutions among homeowners suggest an increasing demand for installers of these solutions.