Copper’s Regional Director for the North and Scotland, Ross Hayman, takes a look at the results from the recent YouGov survey which asked what the world will look like in 2050…
Good news: two out of three British people believe the world will face a major energy crisis by 2050, according to new research from YouGov.
That doesn’t sound like good news? Well, not at face value, no.
But when YouGov asked the same question back in 2010, 79% of people surveyed feared a global energy crisis by 2050, with 14% disagreeing and 9% ‘don’t know’. Today the figure has dropped to 67 per cent fearing a crisis, with 19% disagreeing and 14% ‘don’t know’.
The number who think we will get most of our energy from sources other than coal, oil or gas by 2050 has fallen from 68% in 2010 to 65% this year.
In Copper’s own research, ‘Attitudes to infrastructure in Great Britain’, 44% of people asked said that our current energy distribution infrastructure is ‘fairly good but not great’ and 26% said it is ‘ageing, not good enough.’ In terms of national infrastructure investment, renewable energy topped the list (43%).
So research seems to show the vast majority of people still believe we are heading for an energy crisis, may need fossil fuels for longer, need to invest in our energy infrastructure, and need to prioritise renewable energy sources. It is easy to see why.
Back in 2010, the UK was pressing ahead with plans for new nuclear power stations, and warning that old coal-fired power stations would be closing down faster than new renewable energy could keep up.
Six years on and work still hasn’t started on any new nuclear power plants. Only one – Hinkley Point C in Somerset – has been given the go-ahead, but global economic conditions have made investors understandably nervous about stumping up the billions of pounds needed for work to start.
At the same time, a wave of new wind and solar power has been built and connected to the grid, but investment has slowed following the Government’s 2015 decision to stop renewables subsidies earlier than expected. And the predicted arrival of new gas-fired power stations hasn’t happened, again because of market issues.
The one thing that seems to be on track is the closure of coal-fired power stations, with several shutdowns announced in the last few months.
So what can be done? Well, it could take six years or more to build and commission a new nuclear power station, so work needs to start as soon as possible. New electricity interconnectors linking the UK with the power networks of France, Belgium, Norway and Denmark are at different stages of development and all must continue.
In the short-term, we need more renewables and gas-fired power stations to bridge the gap, but electricity prices will need to rise as margins tighten to make them economically viable.
On the global energy stage, things are moving faster in some places than others. For example, since 2010, China has overtaken the US to become the world’s largest electricity consumer. China’s electricity production has more than doubled in ten years, largely due to its vast coal reserves, but now it’s also investing heavily in new nuclear.
Not surprisingly, with more fossil fuels being burned, the YouGov research found the number of people predicting the Earth will be warmer by 2050 has risen from 74% in 2010 to 76% this year. But despite China’s rapid growth, the number who think it will overtake the US as the world’s main superpower by 2050 fell dramatically from 63% in 2010 to 50% this year.
Other results from the survey show more people fear another world war, think we will have to work into our 70s, and believe printed newspapers will be a thing of the past by 2050.
But to finish on a positive note, more people also think we will find a cure for cancer, land astronauts on Mars and find evidence of life elsewhere in the universe.
The answers are out there, somewhere…