Poll shows public supports radical measures to tackle the energy crisis

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Ireland Thinks poll shows public supports radical measures to tackle the energy crisis

  • 88% support a windfall tax
  • Two-to-one majority support a moratorium on new data centres
  • Nine-to-one majority support green hydrogen over LNG
  • 86% support free school buses and 80% taking more road space for cycling
  • 93% want every school to have solar panels within 5 years

Download poll reportPDFPowerpoint. Irish Times article.

With the National Economic Dialogue in Dublin Castle today likely to be dominated by discussion of what the Government should do to tackle the energy and cost-of-living crisis, a new Ireland Thinks opinion poll has found overwhelming public support for radical measures to save energy, boost renewables and tax windfall profits of energy companies. The poll was commissioned by the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth to test public support for recommendations in its "Five-point plan for Government to cut bills, save energy and reduce pollution". The poll was taken on June 3rd/4th and the results are based on a representative sample of 1,211 members of the public, with a margin of error of +/- 3%.

The headline results show large majorities in favour of more government action: 

Overwhelming support for a windfall tax

  • 88% of people support a windfall tax on companies that have made larger profits due to energy prices, with only 9% against. 61% strongly support the idea. 

Q1 Windfall Tax.JPG

That's considerably higher than the support in the UK, where the equivalent figures when You Gov asked the same question in May were 74% support, 9% against and 51% strongly support.

A clear majority support a moratorium on new data centres

The public support "an indefinite pause of the connection of new data centres to the electricity grid" by a more than two-to-one majority, 57% support to 26% against.

Q3i Data centres.JPG

This comes after recent CSO figures showed that the share of electricity used by data centres in Ireland had tripled from 5% in 2015 to 14% in 2021, more than all rural homes, compared to an EU average of less than 3%.

Free school buses and taking road space from cars for bicycles

  • 86% of people support free school buses for all children who live more than 3km away from school, with only 11% against.

Q3iv Free school buses.JPG

  • 80% of people support the allocation of road space to make it safer for children to cycle and walk to school from less than 3km away, with 16% opposed. This 5-to-1 majority is striking given recent media coverage of vocal opposition by some motorists and shop owners to various cycleway plans.

Q3ii Safe routes to school.JPG

Targetting support for retrofitting at the less well-of

  • 85% of people support focusing government grants and support for home insulation and heat pumps on low income households / those most at risk of energy poverty. This finding is significant given the majority of existing supports tend to end up benefiting the better off more.

Q3iii retrofitting.JPG

Investing in renewables rather than building an LNG terminal to import more gas

In a recent Examiner interview, Minister Eamon Ryan painted two contrasting visions of possible investment on the Shannon estuary, "one vision is to build the likes of an LNG terminal and a data centre and a power station beside it ... The other vision is Ireland goes towards hydrogen", made with renewable energy. In the Ireland Thinks survey:

  • 83% favoured prioritising development of infrastructure for hydrogen from wind energy compared to only 9% who favoured developing infrastructure to import LNG.

Q2 Hydrogen vs LNG.JPG

  • 93% supported every school in Ireland having solar panels within five years. 

Q3v Solar panels on every school.JPG

This comes when after three years of promising the Department of Housing has finally begun a consultation on whether to lift the requirement for schools and other community buildings to have planning permission to put even a single solar panel on their roofs.

Commenting on the results, Friends of the Earth Chief Executive, Oisín Coghlan said:

"It's clear the public want radical government action to reduce our need for fossil fuel energy. That will lower costs and pollution. But it needs decisive leadership to say no to big corporate lobbyists pushing data centres and LNG, and to tax windfall profits. That is want the public wants.

"I hope the poll gives politicians the courage to get on with positive measures even when a noisy minority oppose them, like taking road space from cars to create safe routes for children to cycle and walk to school.

"It is interesting to note that a huge majority of people would rather government supports for retrofitting be more targeted at those at-risk of energy poverty they are now. Friends of the Earth has been calling for the SEAI to sit down with the likes of the SVP and Age Action to discuss how to reach out to people most at risk before next winter. We have to go door-to-door with wrap-around services rather than leaving the schemes on a first-come, first-served basis, which sees those most able rather than those most in need reap the benefits.

"And then there are the measures that are universally popular that the Government should just get on with, like free school buses for any child that lives more than 3km from school and solar panels on every school roof. It is mind-boggling therefore that the Daragh O'Brien's Department of Housing has dragged its heels for three years on a commitment to lift the planning requirement for small scale solar on schools and other community buildings."

These measures and many others are part of the Five Point Plan for Government to Cut Costs, Save Energy and Reduce Pollution that Friends of the Earth has published in advance to the National Economic Dialogue and the preparations for Budget 2023.

1. The full poll report is online here: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/foe_poll_june_2022_headline_results.pdf

2. The Five Point Plan is online here: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/5_point_plan_to_cut_bills_save_energy_and_reduce_pollution_june_2022.pdf

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Climate Change Energy