Support for nuclear energy bounces back
Public support for nuclear energy has bounced back strongly following last year’s Fukushima crisis in Japan while opposition to building new nuclear stations on the site of old ones has fallen to its lowest level in five years, a new poll revealed today.
The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by EDF Energy, found nearly two thirds of Britons (63%) now back the use of nuclear energy as part of the UK’s energy mix, as the net agreement figure increased from +46 in support in 2011, to +52 this year.
The number of people opposed to the building of nuclear power stations on the sites of existing ones has meanwhile fallen to 22%, its lowest level since 2008. In March last year, shortly after the Fukushima incident, 30% of Britons were against the idea.
Net support for building nuclear power stations to replace existing ones has increased sharply from a score of +16 in March last year to +28 this year.
The bounce back comes as EDF Energy prepares to make its final investment decision on plans to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The company is also planning a new station at Sizewell, in Suffolk. Together they would generate a combined capacity of 6.4 GW, sufficient to power ten million homes.
The survey also found more people support government proposals to reform the energy market than oppose them. Over a third of Britons (35%) backed the plans, with 18% against.
The annual poll, of over 4,000 people, found public support for wind farms remained high but had continued to fall, with net favourability declining from a score of +53 last year to +40 in just 12 months.
Interest in global warming and climate change has steadily fallen from 72% in 2008 to 59% now.
Commenting on the results, EDF Energy’s chief executive Vincent de Rivaz, said: “The poll shows strong support for investment in low carbon generation. I’m encouraged to see that nuclear has bounced back after Fukushima and is supported by a larger majority than a year ago. While backing for renewables remains strong, the fall from previous peaks highlights issues which need to be addressed.
“Public support is vital to addressing Britain’s energy challenges. Nuclear and renewables are both needed to fill the energy gap and meet the country’s carbon reduction targets. While the decline in interest on climate change is worrying, the issue remains and needs to be addressed.
“The survey also shows welcome support for the Government’s energy market reforms. These reforms are crucial to delivering the investment needs in future low carbon generation – and it’s important that they are delivered early next year.”
:: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,009 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th-18th June 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Notes to editors
The results of the poll are attached for media use. Please reference EDF Energy as the company which commissioned the poll in any copy.
Summary of poll highlights
Public confidence in nuclear energy strengthens
Support for nuclear as part of the country’s energy mix remains strong and has bounced back strongly following the Fukushima crisis in Japan in 2010.
• Net agreement that nuclear is needed as part of the country’s energy balance increased from a score of +46 in June 2011, to +52 this year. The poll found 63% of people agree with the use of nuclear energy as part of the country’s energy balance, up from 61% last year. Only 11% did not agree it should be part of the energy balance (down from 15% last year).
• Net favourability in terms of people’s impression of nuclear power stations increased from +2 in March 2011 to +13 this year. 40% of Britons have a favourable impression of nuclear power stations.
• Net support for building nuclear power stations to replace existing ones has increased sharply from a score of +16 in March last year to +28 this year. The proportion of the public who support the building of nuclear power stations to replace existing ones rose from 46% in March last year to 50% this year.
• The number of people opposed to the building of nuclear power stations on the sites of existing ones has meanwhile fallen to its lowest level in five years to 22%.
• Net support for replacing nuclear power stations with new ones at the same time as expanding renewable generation also increased from a score of +35 in June 2011, to +41 this year. Despite a decline in popularity, 58% of people still have a favourable impression of wind farms.
Energy market reforms
• More people support government plans to set a fixed price for electricity generation in an effort to encourage investment in low carbon energy where the upfront costs are high than those who do not. 35% backed the measure. 18% were opposed.
• 39% of people have heard about the government’s energy reform plans. 61% have not heard about them.
Fall in support for wind farms
• Public support for wind farms as an energy source for producing electricity has declined since last year with net favourability (%support minus % oppose) falling from a score of +53 last year to +40 in just 12 months.
• Support has continued to fall since 2008 when net favourability was at +66.
• Support for building wind farms on land to fill the county’s energy gap fell from 64% in 2011 to 57% this year, the lowest score since our tracker poll began five years ago. In 2008, 72% of the public backed the building of on-shore wind farms.
• Wind farms off the coast also suffered a decline in support over the last 12 months, falling from 74% last year to 68% this year. In 2008, 82% of the population back off shore wind farms.
• The proportion of people in favour of coal fired power stations as an energy source for producing electricity stands at 21%, a fall 3% from March 2011.
• The proportion of people in favour of gas fired power stations as an energy source for producing electricity is 26%, down 2% from March 2011.
• Support for building new coal power stations (if carbon emissions can be removed and safely stored) to fill the country’s energy gap dipped from 58% in June 2011 to 55% this year.
• Support for building new gas power stations to fill the country’s energy gap rose 1%pt from last year, to 39%.
• There was a surprising fall in the proportion of people who thought disadvantages applied to coal as method of electricity generation if the cost was too high, down from 33% in June 2011 to 29% this year.
• The results were even more dramatic for gas, with the proportion of people who thought disadvantages applied to it as method of electricity generation if the cost was too high, falling from 54% in June 2011 to 44% this year.
Decline in interest in climate change
• Interest in global warming and climate change continues to fall, with 59% of Britons saying they are interested in the topic. Interest levels have steadily fallen since 2008, when 72% of the public said they were interested in climate change.
• There has been a fall in the number of people seeing energy as a challenge facing Britain with 46% saying this now compared with 50% last year.