30/06/2015 - Results from Island Wide Survey on Offshore Renewable Energy Shows Strong Support for Renewables

Tuesday 30 June, 2015

A 3-year PhD research project, sponsored by the Commerce and Employment Department, has published results from the third and final study - an island wide survey on local opinions and views on the future role of macro offshore renewable energy in Guernsey.

The research, carried out by Bouke Wiersma and supervised by Professor Patrick Devine-Wright of the University of Exeter, has focused on perceptions and views on offshore renewable energy such as tidal, wave and offshore wind energy. An island wide survey, utilising a bespoke questionnaire, was carried out to assess public views on the future of energy in general, but with a specific focus on renewables.

Almost 500 residents from across the island completed the survey during January and February 2015 and some key information was gathered. The survey forms part of the joint work which Commerce & Employment’s Renewable Energy Team (RET) are carrying out to progress macro renewable energy. The results from the survey (along with the other studies from the Exeter PhD research) will be used to inform RET’ strategy and proposed renewable energy policy, linking in with the Island energy policy, going forward.
The report is available to download in full from the downloads section, as is a 3 page summary of the results.

Some of the key findings were as follows:

· There is a strong agreement that Guernsey should make use of its natural resources to generate electricity locally (89% agree) and 77% believe that Guernsey should be more self-sufficient for electricity.

· Tidal energy is the most popular technology (86% supported); with solar (81%) and wave energy (80%) also widely supported; offshore wind was also supported by a majority (58%).

· Ownership model – there was significantly stronger support if a project was owned locally rather than externally (63% favoured local ownership for tidal and smaller offshore wind)

· Location of a project is important with more supporting an offshore wind project to the north of the island (55% supported) and more support for a tidal project to the west (if such a location were feasible).

· Generation for local use vs export – there was stronger support for projects where the power is used on Guernsey rather than exporting (only 24% indicated support for a project where the power is primarily exported).

· The majority of people (74% for tidal and 61% from offshore wind) were willing to pay at least a small amount more (varying from up to £50 to over £150 p.a.) for electricity from locally offshore renewable energy.

Jeremy Thompson, Chairman of RET, commented: “This research has provided an independent review of islander opinion on the role of offshore renewable energy sources in Guernsey’s energy future. It was of particular value to note that so many of the respondents (89%) supported making use of Guernsey’s natural resources to generate electricity.”

Kevin Stewart, Minister for Commerce & Employment, said: “It is vital to gather facts and evidence when informing public policy as it is invaluable in making appropriate, informed decisions in the future. Commerce and Employment will take these views on board when continuing its work and making proposals regarding offshore renewables. It is also important to remember that although offshore renewable energy could play a part in the future electricity production it is still more expensive than traditionally generated electricity and with tidal in particular it is still likely to be many years before a large scale local project is a reality.”

Alan Bates, Chief Executive of Guernsey Electricity and who assists RET with its work commented: “GEL has watched with interest the developments in renewables and supports RET and C&E in their work. We see that renewables has a long term place in the electricity generation mix on the island. We will continue to work with RET to ensure we understand the optimum time to utilise renewable technology. RET and GEL are currently focused on jointly working to further investigate the feasibility of offshore wind in Guernsey.”

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, says: “The results show strong public support for renewable energy as well as specific details that should be useful for policy making going forward. First, tidal energy is more strongly preferred that other forms of renewable energy. Second, place is important – some locations are preferred more than others for technologies such as tidal or offshore wind – getting the place right is as significant as getting the technology right. Finally, our research shows why these preferences exist. The tides form part of island culture, familiar to everyone and valued as an important aspect of Guernsey’s distinctiveness. Local ownership and use of energy stems from shared concerns about self-sufficiency. In summary, policies on future energy sources that go with the grain of these wider concerns is more likely to secure social acceptability.”