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Renewables

Comment: Net Zero in My Back Yard

23 October 2023

Stories of local opposition to renewable energy projects are very recognisable narratives – the idea of ‘not in my backyard’ is one that drives the discourse around many community initiatives. But it doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny, and misperceptions around public opinion abound.

Stories of local opposition to renewable energy projects are very recognisable narratives – the idea of ‘Not In My Backyard’ (NIMBY-ism) is one that drives the discourse around many community initiatives.

But it doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny, and misperceptions around public opinion abound.

Polling of rural voters by Public First for the centre-right think tank Onward found that the majority, across all political divides, supported (rather than opposed) a solar farm three miles from their home. A survey by Britain Remade found that although there was a drop in support for local wind and solar versus support ‘in general’, the drop was only around 10%. Our own Climate Barometer tracker data backs this up, with local solar and wind farms favoured much more than fossil fuel developments (drilling or mining).

Wider research shows how supportive people are of solar in its various guises: for example, more people are in favour (48%) of installing solar panels on historic buildings, if not visible from the ground, than oppose it (27%). 68% would be embarrassed by their MP if they were campaigning to prevent a solar park being built in their area, and 73% strongly support or somewhat support creating publicly owned renewable energy (solar, as well as wind and wave/tidal energy).

Not only that, accounts of local concern and uncertainty around new or hypothetical clean energy projects may not stick around once projects are completed. Polling by Censuswide and Copper Consultancy, reported by The Times, finds that solar farms increase in popularity after they are built (62% strongly support) compared with when they are in development (17% strongly support). Living near pre-existing clean energy infrastructure doesn’t seem to affect support for future clean energy projects in a negative way. In fact, those who live near clean energy projects are more likely to support than oppose more of it.

People also tend to overestimate the level of opposition to clean energy – a theme throughout the Renewables topic thread and explored in depth in Perception Gaps. Climate Barometer tracker data shows this trend is even more pronounced among MPs: only 18% believe that in their constituency more would support than oppose a new wind farm, and MPs overall overestimate public opposition (at 45%, compared with the actual figure of 28%).

The latest from the Renewables timeline:

Policy Insight 22nd November 2023

Autumn Statement: Discounts on energy bills to be provided to households living near new electricity transmission infrastructure

In the Chancellor Jeremy Hunnt’s Autumn Statement, it was confirmed that households living near proposed new electricity transmission infrastructure (i.e. the pylons and power lines required to transmit electricity from offshore wind and other renewable sources, to households) would be offered discounts on their electricity bills. The Chancellor said:

‘Following consultation earlier this year, we confirm that we are currently minded to provide both an electricity bill discount for properties located closest to transmission network infrastructure and a wider community benefit. The wider community benefit will be co-developed by the project developer and local community to best reflect community preferences. Our response to the consultation has been published alongside this document. We intend to publish guidance on wider community benefits in 2024. This guidance will be voluntary whilst we explore options for a mandatory approach. We will provide further information on the overall community benefits policy, including bill discounts and options for developing a mandatory approach, in 2024.’

Climate Barometer Tracker 22nd November 2023

Tracker data: Favourability towards wind and solar among MPs and the public

Climate Barometer tracker data across three waves (October 2022 – October 2023) shows high levels of MP support for solar and offshore wind energy. MPs have very high levels of support for offshore wind, but typically have less less favourable attitudes towards onshore wind than the public (though this gap may be starting to close).

View Renewables timeline now

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