How much public support does renewable energy really have in Australia?

Renewable energy is a key talking point when discussing political policy all over the world.

The debate in Australia framed by main stream media would suggest that support or opposition is split somewhere in the middle.

The current government supports a 23% renewable target by 2020 [1]  whereas the Labor party supports a 50% target by 2030 [2]. The Greens support a 90% renewable target by 2030, with a 100% eventual target, although the timing is not specified. [3].

So what do Australians support?

We look to explore the facts on what the landscape in Australia really is and how much support and opposition does the transition from fossil fuels to renewable really have.

We have sourced a number of different polls, surveys and studies into the matter.

To keep things fair we have sourced polls from different institutions and organizations with varying political agendas.

In determining bias we consider the source, population samples taken as well as the nature of the questions asked to participants of studies.

This should give us a balanced view into the matter.

The Australian Institute Poll 1 Feb 2017: Leaning towards bias for fossil fuels [4]

Even though The Australian Institute is an unbiased source, the population sample taken for their first poll leans towards bias for fossil fuels due to the nature of the audience engaged.

The population sample was taken specifically from the Seat of Dawson in QLD. The seat of Dawson is a deep conservative seat so one would expect opposition to renewables based off conservative renewable policies.

The results are somewhat surprising considering the survey sample.

54.5% of the electorate support a 50% renewable energy target by 2030 which is in line with Labor’s policy. 29% oppose the target and 16% were undecided.

 

The Australian NEWSPOLL: Bias towards fossil fuels [5]

Newspoll conducted an exclusive survey for The Australian, which published a story  in the wake of the South Australian blackouts in October 2016.

The heading for the story was “Less then half back the bill for clean energy”.

It was an interesting heading seeing as the poll never asked its audience weather it approved of any particular clean energy target or any “bill” for that matter.

The poll instead asked if people were prepared to pay higher electricity prices for renewable energy.

Ironically, in an effort to skew results in favour of shunning renewable energy, as indicated by the heading, more people polled were prepared to pay something extra for renewables then people not willing to pay anything extra.

The poll revealed that 44% of participants were not prepared to pay more for renewable energy and 11% were undecided. That leaves 45% of the participants that said they were willing to pay higher prices for electricity, however what they were prepared to pay did vary as indicated below.

newspoll survey

The poll’s second question asked its audience weather a 50% renewable target posed a risk to the reliability of our energy grid. 39% of the respondents agreed it did with 36% disagreeing; 25% were undecided.

Despite being a biased report in favour of current LNP policies, at worst, the article and poll indicate that the Australian public is quite evenly split on the issue.

The Australian Institute Poll 2 March 2017: Unbiased [6]

The second poll conducted by the Australian Institute was taken from a broader Australian population in contrast to their first report which was conducted in a conservative electorate.

The poll was asking participants weather they believed we were moving too fast or too slow towards renewable energy in Australia.

67% of participants believed we were moving too slow, 9% believed we were moving too fast and 16% were happy with our current rate; 8% were unsure.

In fairness, the study is not very specific on defining the approval of specific energy targets.

The only conclusion we can take from this study is the vast majority of people at the very least, support a more ambitious clean energy target that what is proposed by LNP.

Lowy Institute poll: Unbiased [7]

The Lowy Poll concluded that 81% of Australians believe that the government should concentrate more on renewable energy even if it meant more expenditure for infrastructure to support this change.

Despite the overwhelming majority of Australians supporting renewable energy, 66% did support the continual export of fossil fuels to developing nations to help them achieve their energy requirement goals.

This result indicates that Australians carefully weigh and consider both the economic and environmental impact of the questions they are being asked.

 

Climate Institute: Bias for Renewables [8]

On June 27 The Climate Institute released results of a survey they conducted across Australia. While the Climate Institute is a biased organization towards renewable energy, the questions they asked were fair and not deliberate in order to achieve a desired outcome.

The Survey found that 96% of participants supported an energy mix made up of primarily renewable sources with 59% supporting an eventual total phase out of coal to renewable energy.

So while 96% support renewables as the primary source of our energy grid, there is no clarification as to what that specific mix would look like. What we can conclude with certainty though is, that a grid made up “primarily” of renewables means a target of 51% at minimum.

57% of participants believed climate change was being driven by human action.

The study also explored people’s perception regarding the rise in electricity prices across the nation.

It found that 55% of people believed that rising prices were due to the privatization of our energy utilities, with 44% believing that it was due to poor policy-making. This is consistent to similar findings published by the recent Finkel report.

 

Conclusion

We have taken polls and studies from a broad range of sources, ranging from from pro-renewable, anti-renewable and everything in between.

It is very clear by the results that Australians do support a 2030 renewable energy target somewhere between the Labor (50%) and Greens (90%) policies. Admittedly, without further polls that ask specific questions, we can not conclude the exact target that is supported by the majority of Australians.

Regardless of this, it demonstrates an apparent breakdown and failure of our political system.

Despite the majority of the Australian voters supporting a more pro-renewable energy policy, the actions of our ruling party are at complete odds to this.

This is a systemic failure in how our politics should work. Voters in Australia are forced to lump all the policies of the ruling party they vote for despite not agreeing with certain policies within that party.

This is highlighted in the Australian institute survey of the seat of Dawson.

This skews the public perception of voter support from policy to policy.

This goes to the very core of our message here at Truth in Australia.

Instead of political point scoring, our parties should be enacting the change that is supported by the majority of the voters in a true democratic process.

References:

[1] http://www.alp.org.au/renewableenergy

[2] https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan/protecting-our-environment

[3] https://greens.org.au/initiatives/vic/VRET

[4] http://www.tai.org.au/content/dawson-polling-one-nation-surge-support-ret-opposition-company-tax-cuts

[5] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/newspoll/newspoll-less-than-half-back-bill-for-clean-energy/news-story/32e75c9e7ec17c7d8f02869b2fc0f7a3

[6] http://www.tai.org.au/sites/defualt/files/Polling%20Brief%20-%20March%202017%20-%20Renewables.pdf

[7] https://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/almost-all-australians-favour-renewables-over-coal-and-gas-and-want-more-investment

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jun/27/most-australians-want-renewables-to-be-primary-energy-source-survey-finds?CMP=share_btn_fb

 

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