Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Public concern over rising energy bills at an all time high

by Mat Hope
Public concern over rising energy bills is on the up, according to new government data. The news follows reports of energy companies doubling their profits as Britain experienced a cold snap this spring.
The data also show support for some low carbon energy sources is at an all time high as the public becomes increasingly aware of the new kid on the block, shale gas.
Research company TNS UK interviewed around 2,000 people for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)'s Public Attitudes survey. The idea was to gauge how the public sees what DECC calls its main "business priorities" - goals such as energy efficiency, improving the UK's energy infrastructure and increasing the amount of energy we generate from low carbon sources. DECC runs the survey every three months to track changes in opinion.
Paying for energy
More people than ever before said they were worried about paying their energy bills - 59 per cent. Almost a quarter said they were "very worried". That's a nine per cent rise since the question was last asked in February, with a result DECC says is probably down to Britain experiencing a particularly cold start to spring.
Concern does not appear to have translated into action, however, with fewer people switching energy suppliers. 52 per cent of people switched in the last year, compared to 55 per cent when the question was last asked in July 2012. Energy suppliers may be comforted by the news that 61 per cent said they had no plans to switch in the next year.
A survey by Which? earlier this month found consumers were still confused by complicated energy tariffs, despite government efforts to simplify the system.
Energy options
Support for renewables is at an all-time high, with 82 per cent saying they support the use of renewable energy sources. 56 per cent of respondents said they'd be happy to have a renewable energy project in their area. Onshore wind, offshore wind and biomass are all experiencing their highest level of support since the survey began.
The nuclear picture is less clear. 40 per cent support its use, while only 23 per cent oppose it. But a large number of people remain ambivalent - with 35 per cent sitting on the fence.
Awareness of 'fracking' has increased significantly - 52 per cent of people now say they know at least a little about it. That's 10 per cent more than six months ago. Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock to crack it, allowing the gas to be extracted. It's unclear whether awareness translates into support or opposition, however, as the survey did not ask people about their attitudes to the technology.
Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, says the survey "shows clear public support for government to continue in its efforts of developing for low-carbon, home grown forms of energy". But the survey also highlights public pressure to keep energy prices down. The government faces a tougher challenge than ever to deliver on this, however, as wholesale pricescontinue to rise.