By Travis Benn – (3 min read)
If you think the British public is sick of the sight of wind turbines, think again. A recent YouGov poll has challenged the accepted wisdom to show that two-thirds of the population would support a change in policy to allow the building of more onshore wind farms.
Since the government introduced new rules governing subsidies for the construction of onshore turbines, the number of new sites applying for planning permission has crashed. Applications have dropped by 94% and, although the rules have recently been amended to allow some applications to compete for subsidies, the only onshore projects currently sanctioned are those based on remote Scottish islands
For a population coming to terms with the effects of climate change, and one trying to balance concerns over energy security and the cost of power with a commitment to greater levels renewable energy, the stifling of the cheapest form of renewable energy generation is a blow. However, it ties in clearly with wider attitudes towards environmental behaviour.
When it comes to energy, cost is a great concern. Government data, collected through the BEIS Energy and Climate Change Public Attitudes Tracker in 2018, shows that almost a third of people worry about paying energy bills. This is coupled with a clear majority – 72% – expressing concern that the UK is becoming too dependent on energy from other countries, and 71% agreeing that we are not investing quickly enough in alternative sources of energy.
It is clear that we have moved on significantly from the days when recycling was a novelty. Twenty years ago, packaging targets had just been introduced, and local authorities were developing systems to allow householders to recycle from home. Awareness was a big problem, while the possibility of separate food waste collections, or the achievement of targets in the region of even 30% seemed like an unattainable fancy.
Recycling is still important, but to those seeking to push the agenda and drive meaningful change, it remains a distraction from the core elements of the waste hierarchy – reduce and reuse. The arrival of the Circular Economy, with its focus on design for reuse and recycling, has shifted the debate further still.
Where recycling and renewable energy diverge, perhaps, is in the willingness of the public to engage with the technology itself. Waste facilities still often struggle to gain the support of residents close to the site whereas, according to the BEIS report, 66% would be happy to see a large scale renewable development in their area. If we are to provide cheap energy produced in the UK, perhaps it is time to test this support further.
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