CCS is posited by the government’s climate advisers as a way of helping the UK take carbon out of electricity generation
The scale of the task for the UK energy industry of getting carbon capture and storage technology off the ground was revealed on Tuesday – nearly half of the population has never even heard of the technology, let alone have an opinion on it.
About 42% of people had no knowledge of CCS, which is posited by the government’s climate advisers as a way of helping the UK take carbon out of electricity generation, while continuting to use fossil fuels such as gas, within the next two decades. There are still no functioning commerical scale CCS units on power stations, however, and a long-running government competition offering as much as £1bn to a company willing to build one has suffered numerous setbacks.
People would only be marginally more enthusiastic about having a nuclear power station built within five miles of their homes – slightly more than half the population, about 54%, would oppose such a siting.
The findings came in a three-year research project run by the UK Energy Research Council aimed at finding out what people think about the future of energy, through a major nationwide survey and six focus groups carried out by Cardiff University. A large majority of people – 74% – said climate change was a threat.
But the poll failed to ask people about one of the most controversial energy issues facing the UK, that of the exploitation of shale gas in areas such as Lancashire and Sussex.
The survey also found that awareness of renewable heat technologies, for which the government announced incentive levels for householders last week, was low. The Committee on Climate Change, the statutory body set up under the Climate Change Act to advise ministers on how to meet long term greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, has said that about 600,000 heat pumps will need to be in use by about 2020 in order to meet current targets, but even industry insiders see this as unlikely to come to pass.
In the poll of 2,442 people across the UK, about three quarters said they were concerned about climate change, a similar number supported renewable electricity generation and a slightly higher number (79%) said they felt the amount of fossil fuel use should be cut. There was also high support for solar power – about 85% backed it – and more than four in five people expressed concern that the UK was becoming too dependent on imports of fuel from overseas.
Researcher Dr Catherine Butler said: “People are still very much favourable to renewable energy even when it is suggested it is significantly more expensive.”
The researchers who carried out the UKERC study, which has been running since 2011, said the results clearly showed that most people are in favour of changing the energy system to use more renewable power and cut carbon emissions. However, it is unclear from the results how people would prefer this transition to be paid for.