Are We Ready for Energy Change ?

   Research Survey

Image Credit : Qinetiq
What is this survey ? This survey is about your views on upgrading the energy systems in the United Kingdom.

Why take part in this survey ? If you have 15 to 20 minutes to answer the 30 questions in this survey, you will be contributing to an ambitious university study. Its main aim is to provide essential feedback on energy changes to policymakers and campaigners.

What do you think about energy ? This survey asks questions about how ready we are for changes in the energy systems. It asks you what you think about Energy Change, rather than asking if you are "doing your bit" to save energy.
Why do the energy systems need to change ? New energy systems need to be built because old ones need to be shut down. The new energy systems need to be paid for, even though there are problems in the global economy. The UK Coalition Government has made several proposals on how to use both public and private money to make Energy Change happen.

Making progress on the Coalition Government's Energy Bill and related legislation is vital for the long-term economic prospects of the country, and as a concerned citizen, now is the time for your voice to be heard on the development of cleaner, greener energy systems.

What's the future ? The UK Parliament's 2008 Climate Change Act makes it the law to cut down on global warming gas emissions, and so new energy systems will be low carbon. Better and cleaner energy systems can help stop Climate Change and support economic health. The price of electricity and fuel will almost certainly go up in future, partly because of Energy Change. This makes saving energy important for keeping the national economy stable.

How do I answer this survey ? There are 30 questions in the Energy Change survey, plus 10 general questions about who you are to help with analysis of the results. Please give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to complete the survey. In each question, please choose the answer that best matches your ideas - and if none of them are close enough, or if you disagree with anything about the question, please choose the "Other" option and give your reasons.

For more information, or if there's anything wrong, please contact the researcher by e-mail or telephone 0845 4598460. Click here for more on energy. Please be aware of the Terms & Conditions for this survey, and also the Disclaimer.

The UK energy regulator Ofgem says that 200 billion needs to be spent over the next ten to fifteen years to replace energy supply systems that have reached their end of life. To meet the demands of Climate Change law, energy companies will need to provide new clean technologies for energy systems, and this will make the cost of energy higher than otherwise.

Question 1 When fossil fuel energy systems need replacing, will it be worthwhile to spend the extra money to use new, clean energy technologies ?

Roughly half of the UK's electricity is generated by burning coal. Between 2004 and 2009 the energy company BP says the world used up 45 years of known coal reserves. New emissions standards will mean that coal power stations should not be in constant use without capturing the carbon dioxide and storing it permanently out of reach. Carbon capture technology will make power stations burn more fuel than they do now.

Question 2 Do you think there are economic risks in building new power stations that will burn coal for another 50 years ?

The market prices for fossil fuels have changed a lot in the last few years. Experts say that supplies of petroleum oil might never get higher than they are now. Natural Gas supplies are coming from resources that were considered uneconomic twenty years ago. More power plants will use Natural Gas in future, because it burns more cleanly than coal.

Question 3 How likely do you think it is that the UK will see significant disruption in imports of oil or Natural Gas within the next 20 years, because other countries are competing for the same resources ?

A fifth of the power stations in Britain need to be replaced soon, due to old age and new European emissions rules. Decisions about replacement technologies have been delayed or shelved, such as the Severn Barrage Scheme for tidal electricity. In these difficult economic times, energy companies are slow to build new power stations, and the Government has few powers to make sure there's enough electricity.

Question 4 Do you think that the UK will face shortages in electricity supply in the next 10 or 20 years ?

Upwards pressure on energy prices is coming from all directions, including European Union renewable energy targets. There are UK Government proposals to price carbon dioxide emissions, and the cost to energy companies will be passed on to bill payers. Amendments to the existing Renewables Obligation will provide more power from sustainable sources, at a price to the taxpayer. Plus, building new energy systems depends on raw resources such as steel, whose real world prices are rising.

Question 5 Do you think that electricity prices will rise in the next few years ?

The UK Government proposes to set up UK carbon pricing, and it is hoped this will support the development of low carbon technologies. The carbon floor price is intended to be a stronger market signal than the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which has suffered from very low prices, computer hacking and credit fraud.

Question 6 Do you think that setting a definite price on carbon dioxide will have an impact on emissions ?

The UK Government's Climate Change Committee recommended that the UK cut emissions by 34% by 2020. The UK has a European Union target - 15% of all energy should come from renewable sources by 2020. This could mean over 30% of UK electricity having to come from renewable energy. Plus, there will need to be strong enforcement measures for energy conservation, and significant renewable heat provision.

Question 7 Do you think we can meet Climate Change targets in the UK over the next ten years by rapidly increasing the amount of renewable energy, such as wind power ?

The Treaty of Lisbon promises to keep the lights on in the European Union. The British Government are committed to meeting their EU Renewable Energy Directive target. As it stands at the moment, the target is that 20% of all European energy should come from renewable sources by 2020. European Union policy in the 2008 Energy Package will directly fund investment in what it calls Strategic Energy Technologies. This includes funding for a supergrid to connect renewable energy resources across the region.

Question 8 Do you think Britain should urge Europe to adopt a new target of 30% renewable energy by 2020, compared to the current target of 20% ?

Experts recommend that electricity providers switch fuels from coal to Natural Gas, which burns more cleanly. Many electricity generators will want to burn Natural Gas to avoid the potential of costly carbon prices or taxes. The UK Government says that burning Natural Gas for electricity is the lowest cost, lowest risk investment for new power stations. However, from start to finish, extracting new resources of Natural Gas may produce more emissions than coal.

Question 9 Do you think that large oil and gas companies such as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron should put more money into developing clean energy resources from the sun, tides and wind ?

The energy companies seem to be slow to put their capital resources into building new energy systems. Some might think that they are waiting for promises of Government financial support because of the enormous costs involved.

Question 10 Who should pay for Energy Change ?

According to the UK Government energy statistics, in 2009, households used two thirds of all Natural Gas for heating and hot water, and more than a third of all the electricity. Transport in the UK used nearly all of the petrol and diesel, which was more than a third of all the energy consumed in the UK.

Question 11 What do you think would be the best use of the money raised by carbon pricing ?

The UK Coalition Government are proposing to give nuclear power plants some state support by reviewing their financial obligations when they close down. Setting a carbon price would benefit nuclear power operators as they make electricity with much less emissions than coal power. The UK Government is proposing to buy out any failing energy companies under a new Special Administration Regime. Some campaigning organisations question whether Government financial support will be spent on the best energy technologies.

Question 12 Do you think it would be efficient to run low carbon energy as a national business ?

The European Union and the UK are investing public funds in new electricity grids. These developments will help to open up the European market to new electricity resources, but it does not guarantee that energy companies will commit capital to building new power stations, wind farms or marine energy, and it does not set a timetable for new energy supplies.

Question 13 Do you think that the Government should intervene directly in the energy markets, for example by setting target dates for new power stations, banning dirty or inflexible energy technologies, or refusing energy projects that will take a long time to build ?

The Coalition Government scrapped New Labour Government plans for an Infrastructure Planning Commission that would have been central to implementing national energy policy for new grids and power stations. Energy companies now face uncertainty about whether new energy systems can be fast-tracked through the Localism Bill that is under discussion.

Question 14 Do you think that local communities should be allowed to refuse a planning application for a low carbon energy system such as a wind farm, a "capture ready" coal plant, or nuclear power station ?

The European Union has set aside about 70 billion to finance Strategic Energy Technologies that include Concentrating Solar Power, Carbon Capture and Storage and new nuclear power plants. The UK Government has invited wind turbine manufacturing companies to set up in the UK. It has also proposed the Green Deal, a system of loans to householders for energy saving renovations which would reduce bills, savings that would pay off the finance.

Question 15 What do you think is the best way to make and keep green jobs in the British economy ?

The UK Coalition Government is proposing to offer special payments or price guarantees to electricity generation companies. This is to offer certainty for energy companies coming forward to build expensive investments such as new Nuclear Power Plants and Carbon Capture and Storage facilities.

Question 16 Do you think offering energy companies special payments or price guarantees to encourage them to build costly new energy systems is fair practice ?

The British Government is proposing to offer special payments or price guarantees to all electricity generators, whichever fuel they use, to persuade them to keep power stations in operation, and maintain a regular electricity supply.

Question 17 Do you think the British Government should offer special payments or price guarantees to electricity generators to keep the lights on in the UK, even though some of them will be burning fossil fuels ?

A lot of the UK's wealth is tied up in fossil fuel energy systems. Pension funds and other major investors expect good returns from companies such as BP. The main mission of companies like BP is to provide profit for their shareholders. To break the vicious cycle of dirty energy investment, it is necessary to find a mechanism to redirect funds towards low carbon energy.

Question 18 Do you think that Local Authorities, Charities, Pension Funds and other large organisations should make a conscious effort to put their money into green energy investment ?

The UK Government has put forward proposals for a Green Investment Bank as a way for ordinary people to vote with their savings on the development of new low carbon energy technologies.

Question 19 Would you be prepared to put your savings in the proposed Green Investment Bank ?

If everybody did their little bit on energy conservation, the sum total would be only a little bit of what is needed to reduce energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Do the actions of energy consumers matter ? Or do all the significant decisions get made by Government and the energy companies ?

Question 20 Do you think that household energy consumers should be held responsible for changing their behaviour ?

The UK Economy is worth roughly 7 trillion. Currently, most contracts for goods and services are considered on a purely value for money basis. The electricity suppliers are obliged to procure a certain amount of green power. A similar obligation for low carbon heat could be provided by such things as more home insulation, biomass burning and district heating schemes (from community combined heat and power plants).

Question 21 Do you think all Local Government and public services should have obligations to buy green energy - not just electricity but also heat and vehicle fuel ?

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010 will cost BP billions of dollars for the clean up and fines. BP made an annual trading loss of $4.9 billion in the year 2010. The oil company Chevron have recently been fined billions of dollars for environmental pollution in Ecuador.

Question 22 Do you think that media attention to the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the heart-rending stories of coal mine accidents are helping to influence perspectives on what our future energy choices should be ?

The Coalition Government in the United Kingdom want to introduce what is known as the "Green Deal" in their new Energy Bill. This would offer homeowners a loan, paid back from energy savings, to renovate their properties to make sure they use less energy. The mass programme of insulation of British offices and homes will take a lot of manpower, and could be expensive, but could save a lot of energy and money in the long run.

Question 23 In your view, what would be the best side-effect of the UK Government's Green Deal for energy saving in homes and offices ?

The UK Government have offered incentives to energy companies to help us reduce the amount of electricity we use. Many low energy light bulbs have been handed out, but this has been criticised as a token gesture, as it has not reduced the amount of power the country uses. It is cheaper to cut electricity use ("negawatts") than building new power stations, so energy saving makes sense.

Question 24 Which do you think would be the best way to cut down on your demand for grid electricity ?

The energy company BP says that there are 46 years of oil reserves left; 63 years of Natural Gas and 119 years of coal. Running road vehicles on liquid fuel made from coal or Natural Gas would be costly and dirty. It would take decades to replace all the cars, vans, lorries (trucks) and buses to use compressed Natural Gas or electricity, so there could be a real crisis ahead for transport systems.

Question 25 Which do you think could provide an effective substitution for petrol and diesel vehicle fuel ?

There are a number of factors influencing energy prices, including the need to build new energy systems, carbon pricing and economic conditions. Estimates vary for how much consumer energy bills will increase, but most experts agree that we will be paying more as bill payers, because the energy companies will pass most of these costs on to us. Even if some of the costs of new low carbon energy investment are offset by Government support, the energy bill payers will still bear the cost, as taxpayers.

Question 26 How much extra do you think energy bill payers might have to pay for the energy companies to build a fully low carbon supply of energy ?

Electricity is a very flexible form of energy, and it can be made in a wide variety of ways. A number of reports projecting the future of energy have said that using renewable electricity to power our vehicles and heat our homes is a flexible strategy, as the changes in transport and households can be made at the same time as the supply of renewable electricity is being developed.

Question 27 It has been projected that we will stop using fossil fuels altogether and everything will be run on renewable electricity, from transport to heating. Do you think that's a possible future ?

There are several stages for the transition to a low carbon economy. Some of the changes made along the way will be useful later on. For example, making energy systems more efficient, and doing more with less, such as installing Combined Heat and Power plants in the community. This will make the use of fossil fuel much more efficient, and the same systems will be able to use renewable fuel later on when it is more widely available. The number of changes means that the low carbon transition will be a major part of the economy.

Question 28 Do you think that the shift towards renewable energy will make the rest of the economy suffer ?

A number of people are saying that we should focus on producing renewable gas that we can use in the existing grid network and in power stations. Renewable gas could be hydrogen made from spare wind power (bio-hydrogen), biogas made from composting animal and human waste (bio-methane), or biogas from burning municipal waste (bio-syngas). Changes would need to be made at every sewage treatment plant, local authority waste depot and many farms, factories, supermarkets and warehouses.

Question 29 Developing sources of renewable gas could make up for falling supplies of Natural Gas coming from the North Sea. We could make use of the existing Natural Gas grid network without significant changes. What do you think would be the biggest impact ?

Progress on replacing the use of fossil fuels has been slow. Fossil fuels are still relatively cheap in the global economy, and the fossil fuel energy companies are embedded in the investment and finance sector. Transition from one energy resource to another is time-consuming and expensive.

Question 30 Which energy source do you think we will be using the most of in 2030 ?

Background Information : please give a few brief details about what kind of person you are, to help us check that a representative sample of people have answered the survey.

What region are you living in ? Other
How old are you ?
What gender are you ?
What is your ethnic group ? Other
Is Climate Change really happening ?


How do you prefer to keep up to date with science ?
Do you know a lot about energy technologies ?
What are your flying habits ?
What is your most frequent form of transport ?
Which description best suits your current occupation ?
Please enter your e-mail address if you want to hear the final results
Please enter your website address to let us know about your energy work

Are there any general comments that you would like to make ?

The College of Global Change was formed to provide a platform for thinkers and writers on Energy, Environmental and Economic Change. The Change College aims to encourage information and opinion exchange in the science, policy and education communities, and to offer commentary to the media about Global Change news. The College hopes to promote sound systems thinking for policymakers at all levels of government, and practical action for social structures and corporate organisations. The Change College is a private, non-partisan, non-profit network and is free to join. The online resources are offered at no charge to readers, and contributors are not paid. Contact us by e-mail at change dot college at google mail dot com.