5 September, 2023
The Times, by Emily Gosden

A majority of Britons believe that building more wind and solar farms is the best way to tackle high energy bills and that planning laws should be overhauled to speed up their deployment, according to new polling.

Most people also believe that tackling climate change will be good for the economy, research for Britain Remade, a pro-growth campaign group, has found. Sixty-nine per cent agreed and only 20 per cent disagreed.

In the polling of almost 2,400 adults by Opinium, 76 per cent said that energy bills were a worry for themselves or their families and 79 per cent thought bills could best be tackled by building more clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Seventy-four per cent agreed with the suggestion that “the government should reform planning rules to speed up the deployment of new clean energy sources”.

Sam Richards, chief executive of Britain Remade, said: “The glacial pace of construction of new clean energy infrastructure in this country is bonkers. We need to slash the red tape stopping us building the cheaper, cleaner infrastructure that will power this country.”

Despite the strong headline support for faster deployment in principle, the research also points to the challenges of winning backing for new projects, with people notably less likely to support developments close to where they live. Fifty-five per cent of respondents supported more solar panels in fields in England, but this fell to 46 per cent for solar farms in their area. Likewise, the proportion backing more onshore wind farms in Britain was 52 per cent, but only 41 per cent if they were local. About 30 per cent backed more nuclear plants, but only 18 per cent if they were near by. Only 18 per cent supported new power grid infrastructure, which fell to 15 per cent in their local area.

A huge expansion of network infrastructure, involving hundreds of miles of new, high-voltage cabling, is expected to be needed in future to meet climate goals. National Grid, the network provider, has said that five times more transmission lines will be required by 2030 than have been built in the past 30 years.

A report last month by Nick Winser, the government-appointed electricity networks commissioner, recommended that households living near big new power lines should receive lump sum compensation payments, as well as sharing in wider packages of community benefits.