The Independent View: Voters support pro-wind energy candidates

Nine months ago Nick Clegg made his Leader’s speech to Conference in front of a backdrop featuring wind turbines. There followed months of speculation about the relationship between Lib Dem Energy Secretary Edward Davey and his junior Minister John Hayes, until the latter was moved. So were Clegg and Davey right to be so forthright in support? New polling numbers suggest so, despite what certain fossilised parts of the media would have us believe.

Over the last year there’s been a slew of opinion polls showing strong support for wind – as Davey said to the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group regarding onshore wind: “I wouldn’t mind having a two thirds majority” – however, some still seemed to feel that backing wind would cost them votes.

If any politician is in doubt about the public’s undiminished appetite for wind energy, may I politely point them in the direction of fresh independent research by ComRes which shows that local and national candidates who support of wind energy are more likely to gain votes.

More than a third of voters in local elections (34%) said they would be more likely to back a candidate who publicly supports building wind farms. Only 24% would be less likely to do so. 36% said it made no difference either way, and 7% didn’t know. So attempts by some Tories and UKIP to characterise opposition to wind energy as a key issue simply don’t resonate with more than three-quarters of voters in local elections.

For those Lib Dem candidates the impact is clear – 41% of Lib Dem voters more likely to support a pro-wind candidate and just 25% less likely, but it’s true across the political divide as well that people like candidates to be pro-wind. More Conservative voters (33%) said they’d be more likely to support a pro-wind farm candidate than those who said they’d be less likely to do so (31%). Just over a third (34%) said it would make no difference. And nearly a quarter of UKIP voters (23%) say they would be more likely to support a candidate who advocates building wind farms – and a further 29% said it would make no difference (plus 3% didn’t know). So within Mr Farage’s own party, less than half his supporters (45%) said they’d be less likely to vote for a pro-wind candidate.

Of course there’s now a General Election to prepare for, and battles over key regions and voter groups. Looking at the impact of a national political party coming out against wind, nearly half of Lib Dem voters would be turned off, compared to 28% who would be more likely to vote for them. Look at the South-West and you see 39% of voters would be put off by parties that taken an anti-wind stance as opposed to just 23% who would welcome it. And with a continued focus on women’s voters we see that 30% would be less likely to vote for an anti-wind party – compared to 22% more likely to. A quarter of all Conservative voters said they would shy away from a candidate who opposed wind energy. Amongst UKIP voters the numbers are even higher, with 29% of those who supported them in 2010 saying they would actually be less likely to back a national party opposing wind. Perhaps the archetypal man in the pub who Nigel Farage claims to speak for should have a word in his ear and set him right. Perhaps the media will start to report “Shock news – UKIP supporters love wind farms”.

Another telling finding within the ComRes poll is that contrary to the coverage in some of those organs of the press, most people aren’t actually going eye-poppingly apoplectic with rage over the issue of generating clean electricity from a natural resource. The views of local candidates on the council tax and building affordable housing, and the stance taken by national candidates on the EU, immigration and reforming school exams, all had a much greater bigger impact. So despite the anti-wind rhetoric from some politicians, ordinary people care much more about other issues.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it might be useful for the wide range of participants in the wind energy debate to recognise that supporters can be found in all parties, and the vociferous opponents don’t speak for the majority. And they don’t even speak for the man in the pub.

* Jennifer Webber is Director of External Affairs at RenewableUK, the trade and professional body representing the wind, wave and tidal energy industries.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.


  • We must certainly impress on voters, the need for wind and other renewables into the mix of our energy production. But I fear that many people do not understand energy sufficiently, to realise that renewables will not replace fossil, on a like for like basis. The killer blow, for an energy source is its EROEI. (Energy Returned on Energy Invested). Once a source of energy declines to an EROEI of about 3 or less it is not only approaching uneconomic, it is also becoming thermodynamically pointless to extract or process.
    (Just to give perspective the original EROEI of crude oil ~ the Jed Clampet, Texas tea stuff, ~ was about 100. Now in 2013, depending upon the oil field source, we’re down to about 14 to 19)
    About a third down this link there is a table giving the kind of EROEI of various energy sources.
    Well worth a look for those that wish to understand the shift (and its consequences to a society having to learn to live on less), that we will be making in the next 20 to 30 years as we transition to a post carbon world.
    Just a little background info, from a the man in the pub.

  • nuclear cockroach 11th May '13 - 12:12am

    John Dunn is missing the point, as always. 400 ppmV carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. For the very first time since Homo sapiens evolved. Return on investment won’t matter a jot when we have destroyed the matrix by which agriculture has supported us for the past nine thousand years and it will matter even less if seas levels return to their Pliocene interglacial peak. Burning more fossil fuels is merely a slow form of suicide.

  • No, I haven’t missed the point. If you look to the top of the page, this piece is about the value of wind energy, and by definition all renewables, and how this gels with the voter. There is no mention of climate change. I think you will find that it is you, straying off topic.
    I was simply pointing out that wind energy, whilst valuable, will never replace oil as an energy source because it has nowhere near the same energy density, and as we go further afield to get at it [Oil], its EROEI value drops like a stone. When (any energy source), reaches an EROEI of 1:1 , means that it takes the energy equivalent of 1 barrel of oil to extract 1 barrel of oil equivalent. In other words,… pointless. (For oil, we were at 100:1 some 90 years ago. In 2013 we are at 18:1 and falling)
    In essence, we have built our society on fossil fuels, (over a period of 200+ years), but it is simply not physically possible, to maintain that level of society (and a growing economy), on renewables.
    Clearly not everyone got that.
    So by all means, let’s encourage voters to go for wind energy, and other renewables. Just don’t over hype its value, by expecting to be driving your ‘business as usual’ economy, or your 4×4 on electric, any time soon. And as an aside, we can also forget any notion of things like runway 3 at Heathrow. Heathrow’s runway 3 will be a white elephant within 40 years, given that aviation fuel will be so expensive that only the uber rich will still be flying. The major problem at Heathrow in 40 years, will be how to stop the weeds growing between landings and take off’s.
    At least the air will be cleaner by then ~ sorry,… straying off topic.

  • The NETA data is unambiguous – building wind turbines to generate electricity to feed into the grid is pointless.

    The only people who benefit are the investors in wind farms who get to receive the government decreed largess
    regardless of whether they do or don’t generate electricity; just as long as they have a wind farm connected to the grid; effectively the only risks wind farm operators have is getting planning permission and raising the necessary capital for construciton.

    Yes people like the idea of green energy but very few will demand to have a wind farm built on their doorstep, once they understand just how big wind turbine towers are and the numbers that will be needed.

    No the monies that are being added to our energy bills, by government decree for the purposes of paying wind farm operators should instead be spent on building several new power stations. This also goes for the estimated £12Bn cost of rolling out smart meters, which the government is also including in our energy bills…

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