Public wants ambitious support for microgeneration

Renewable energy in homes, communities and businesses got a public vote of confidence this week, but needs ambitious goals and support from government to succeed. A new survey found that people are prepared to pay higher energy bills to support a stronger feed-in tariff.

Two thirds of the population think the government's feed-in tariff proposals to generate just 2% of UK electricity from microgeneration lacks ambition, when its own figures show that up to a third of our electricity could be supplied this way. This was just one finding in a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 people commissioned by Friends of the Earth, the Renewable Energy Association and the Cooperative Group.

The prospect of higher electricity bills didn't put people off. 70% of respondents said they would pay an extra 10p a month (on top of the proposed increase of £1.17 a year until 2013) so the government could introduce a more ambitious scheme from the start.

In addition, 71% of homeowners said they would consider fitting microgeneration if the feed-in tariff rates were generous enough. Sadly, the research didn't ask how generous 'generous enough' would be!

"The public overwhelmingly wants the Government to think big when it comes to small-scale renewable energy," said Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins. "Our homes, businesses and communities could become green power stations - but bigger Government incentives are needed to make this a reality. ...

"The recent freezing weather and concerns about future energy supplies have powerfully made the case for generating more of our energy at a local level."

Fuel security is a concern for many of the respondents. On learning that government estimates indicate that 80% of our gas will come from overseas by 2020, 87% of people questionned agreed (51% strongly) that the UK should spend more developing renewables to make us less dependent on imported gas.

82% found the UK's place at the bottom of the EU league table for renewable energy unacceptable and 79% agreed that the government should invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency to boost an economic recovery, create tens of thousands of jobs, reduce our reliance on overseas fossil fuels and help tackle climate change even if this were at the expense of other plans.

Rates for the feed-in tariff (called the Clean Energy Cashback) are expected to be announced early next week. The rates proposed in last year's consultation were 36.5p per kWh for small installations of solar panels; and 30.5p per kWh for small wind turbines. Campaigners are calling for the rate for solar to increase by 10p.

Now we just wait and see...

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