UK: government survey finds 84% support for solar as fracking backing fades

Support for solar power among the British public has reached a record high 84% according to the latest public attitudes tracker by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The survey also revealed that attitudes towards fracking have soured in the U.K. over the past two years, with just 19% of those polled in favor, down from a high of 29% in April 2014. Those opposed to fracking has also reached a new high, hitting 31% in the latest poll.

Contrast this trend with growing support for renewable energy and it would appear that the government’s stance on clean power is at odds with public opinion. Severe cuts to solar and wind subsidies have shellshocked the industries over the past 18 months while the government has pressed ahead with controversial plans to expand fracking activity.

Backing for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant has also been favorably consistent, whereas solar in particular has suffered from short-term thinking that has served to damage investor confidence in the sector.

However, the public’s stance has not been swayed by such inconsistency: support for solar is now at 84%, the highest of any technology, with offshore and onshore wind also growing in popularity to 76% (up from 73% in the last poll) and 69% (up from 66%) respectively.

Overall, 81% of the British public backs renewable energy, with only 4% opposed. Over the past few years, renewable support has been steadily increasing from a high base of around 75% when DECC’s opinion tracker was first introduced.

DECC seeks to muddy the issue

Despite opposition to fracking clearly on the increase, a spokesperson for DECC attempted to claim that the 46% of those polled who were "neither for or against" fracking should be seen as a positive.

"These findings show that half of the people asked still don’t have a view on fracking, but more importantly that the vast majority (88%) said that they do not know a lot about it," said the DECC spokesperson. "This is exactly why we want people to have access to all the facts so they can see past the myths and understand the benefits, which include greater energy security, more jobs and growth."

Solar power has proven to offer all three of those listed benefits, as numerous studies in the industry have proved in recent months. Official DECC figures this week put the amount of installed solar PV capacity in the U.K. at 9.5 GW, which is one-fifth higher than last year and an incredible increase on 2010, when the sector had barely 100 MW installed.