How worried are we really about energy security?

Last month we saw data on whether climate change or energy security is seen as more pressing.

The results were interesting. They suggested that people were more willing to reduce their energy consumption to help the environment than to protect the UK’s energy security; yet it also seemed that people wanted the government to prioritise protecting the energy supply over providing more environmentally friendly electricity.

It’s since been pointed out to me that the wording of the ‘personal responsibility’ question may have had a misleading influence. The option for energy security was phrased as ‘To conserve energy now to make sure the UK has enough in future’.

As was suggested to me, an interviewee might take issue with the implication that there are transferable units of electricity that can be used immediately or saved for later. Of course not using a unit of electricity today doesn’t mean that the unit will continue to be available tomorrow.

So perhaps my conclusion, that individuals see themselves as having a greater role in tackling climate change than they do in tackling energy security, was overstated.

And in fact another poll suggests exactly that.

ComRes research for IBM finds that 79% agree that “Every individual has a responsibility to monitor their own energy usage to avoid wasting the country’s energy supply”. Though there’s no direct comparison with how far people see an individual responsibility to avert climate change, you don’t get much higher than 4 in 5 people agreeing that individual action is needed.

That said, the ComRes poll also suggests that energy security isn’t a pressing issue for most. Although most say it’s everyone’s responsibility to act, only 32% think that there will be power cuts in the UK because of energy shortages in the next 5-10 years. Perhaps this is because they think a solution will be found, or perhaps it’s because they don’t think there’s all that much of a problem to begin with.

So it seems that people aren’t averse to seeing it as individual (ie not just government or energy company) responsibility to help with energy consumption. But at the same time, there isn’t a widespread view that we’re facing an energy disaster that requires urgent action.


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