Public opinion a hurdle for low carbon

Public opinion could be a major hurdle for the future of low carbon in the UK. Energy leaders and academics warned at the Economist’s UK Energy Summit yesterday that unless […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Public opinion could be a major hurdle for the future of low carbon in the UK.

Energy leaders and academics warned at the Economist’s UK Energy Summit yesterday that unless people understand the need to spend taxpayers’ cash on decarbonising, there could be a huge backlash.

Centrica chief Sam Laidlaw said that in an opinion poll released by Centrica, only 1% were prepared to pay an extra £500 on carbon cutting energy.

He added: “Fewer than half thought it was better to have higher energy prices that to have the lights go out in the future.”

Academics and business experts on at the summit agreed that the public was unprepared for a price increase.

John Banham, the ex-CBI head who is now with Johnson Matthey, said consumers would balk at “unaffordable” energy policies that he claimed could equal spending on the Defence Budget.

Dieter Helm, Official Fellow in Economics at the University of Oxford worried that politicians may turn their back on renewable policies they had approached at “breakneck speed” if public opinion turned against them because of the extra cost.

The consensus was that the Government needed to be upfront about the cost of renewable energy to consumers.