Aussies Are Keen For More Renewables, Latest CSIRO Data Reveals

Aussies Are Keen For More Renewables, Latest CSIRO Data Reveals

Australia’s national science body, The CSIRO, has just revealed its latest survey data on Australian support for the uptake of renewables – and surprise surprise, Aussies are broadly happy to get behind sun and wind power. The CSIRO’s ‘Understanding Australian attitudes toward the renewable energy transition’ snapshot data had some interesting nuggets.

Interestingly, support for solar has actually dropped slightly. The survey from 2020 found that 95 per cent of respondents were in favour of living near solar farms, and the latest data indicates that 88 per cent of respondents would be fine with living near solar farms. Still, solar is the most widely loved form of renewable energy.

It was trailed by on-shore wind farms, of which 82 per cent of respondents said they’d be happy to live near, then 81 per cent of respondents said they’d be fine with living near off-shore wind farms.

Understandably, transmission lines were the least accepted piece of infrastructure surveyed by CSIRO – with only 77 per cent of Australians saying they’d accept living near power lines.

In a hypothetical question asked by CSIRO, 80 per cent of Australians said that they’d be happy to live within 10km of renewable energy infrastructure.

Respondent demographics. Figure: CSIRO

Location, location, location

Views on renewable energy were also broken down based on location, 83 per cent of respondents living in capital cities would be fine living near renewable energy infrastructure, along with 83 per cent of respondents living in regional cities, and 82 per cent of people living in towns. 77 per cent of respondents living out of town, such as in rural Australia, said they’d be happy to live near renewable energy sources.

Aussies were, however, undecided on the speed of transition. 47 per cent of respondents said that they’d prefer a moderate-paced transition speed, while 40 per cent would prefer a faster, more extensive speed. 13 per cent elected for a low-change scenario.

This is a regular survey that CSIRO puts together (in collaboration with the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water). It’s been running the survey for several years, with this year’s data including responses from more than 6,700 Australians across the country. It was conducted between September and August 2023.

“Many Australians held generally moderate attitudes towards living near renewable energy infrastructure, suggesting a broad willingness to support, or at least tolerate, the development of solar farms, onshore and offshore wind farms, and associated transmission line infrastructure,” the project’s Senior Social Scientist Doctor Andrea Walton said.

“The survey showed that most Australians supported the energy transition, but opinions varied about the rate and extent of change.”

No-clear mention

Something to note, perhaps only because it has been a hot topic over the past year, nuclear energy and reactors weren’t mentioned in the CSIRO’s survey data – and there’s a reason for this. In the CSIRO’s FAQ page for the latest survey data, the science body answered the question on if it asked about nuclear, and the answer’s quite definitive:

“The survey focused on attitudes towards existing or planned renewable energy infrastructure, the infrastructure required to build out its transmission and distribution, as well as beliefs about the transition.”

“The survey asked people to rate their knowledge of 15 energy technologies, including nuclear energy. Reported knowledge of nuclear energy was low and averaged at 2.21 out of 5.

“The survey also included open text questions where participants were free to comment on other topics. Some participants expressed a desire for information on how new technologies and renewable energy sources will shape the future of energy production, distribution, and consumption, including mentions of nuclear by some people.”

Given that there are currently no plans at all to build nuclear reactors in Australia (and the closest project to such a plan is now dead by way of astronomical projected costs), it’s no wonder it wasn’t given a bigger spotlight. I expect sensible people to be extremely normal about this.

Energy priorities of respondents. Figure: CSIRO

Another hot-button issue, affordability, was mentioned. Forty-one per cent of respondents said that their energy transition priority was affordability, while 26 per cent said their priority was reducing emissions. 18 per cent said that increasing the country’s energy self-reliance was the next highest priority.

It goes to show that, survey-wide, Aussies generally are in favour of a shift to renewables. You can read the full CSIRO survey results here.

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