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Renewables seen to be the future primary energy source

A whopping 96 per cent of Australians want renewables to be the country’s primary source of energy, a study by the Climate Institute has found.

The Climate Institute’s national Climate of the Nation survey, published on Tuesday also found that the vast majority of Australians were also frustrated by the government’s inaction, U-turns on policy and repeated attempts to portray renewables to be expensive and unreliable.

The scientific survey questioned 2,660 people across Australia and 71% agreed that climate change was happening. Two thirds said they were very concerned about the impact it would have on Australia and over half – 57% – believe that human activity is the cause of climate change.

While 96% of respondents said that the country’s primary energy source should come from renewable sources, 58% want the system to be supported by battery storage technology and 38% want fossil fuels to be in the mix.

The phasing out of coal to be replaced with clean energy is supported by 59% and 72% of those want the government to drive that transition phase.

Australians consistently believe that renewable energy is the future

Acting CEO of the Climate Institute Olivia Kember

The shift towards public demand for more renewable energy sources has been consistent since the survey was first carried out 11 years ago, said acting chief executive of the Climate Institute Olivia Kember.

She said public discussion of energy mix has become more complicated, but renewables are still seen as more sustainable and are regarded as the future.

Despite the Federal Government consistently labelling renewables as costly and unreliable, people across the board have strong support for renewable energy and a strong sense that we need to go towards a cleaner energy system.

Respondents also believe that high electricity prices are a direct result of the privatisation of electricity generation and supply (55%) and poor policy-making (44%). These beliefs mirror what was found by Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, in his recent review of the energy sector.

Most Australians are frustrated with government inaction and depiction of renewables as being expensive and unreliable sources

Ms Kember said that most people saw the market as not functioning effectively: “What they see are higher prices, worse service and companies that seem to be profiteering.”

More than 40% of respondents said the federal government was “doing a fairly poor to terrible job” on climate change and energy, up from 33% last year. Only 18% said their efforts were “fairly good to excellent”.

The survey also found that the Australian public felt “fatigued, discouraged and disempowered” by the politically motivated arguments around climate change.

Kember said: “Australians look at what the government is delivering and they’re beyond unimpressed. They’re really frustrated and annoyed at the way it keeps being treated as an opportunity for partisanship, political attacks and bickering.

Most believe that Australia can be a leader in renewables

63% of respondents said that Australia is an international leader on action against climate change, particularly in pioneering the development and implementation of renewable energies.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents were motivated by the opportunities for the economy through jobs and investment (73%) and by protecting the environment (70%).

The report found that people were generally in favour of the Paris agreement to curb global warming to 1.5-2C, and could not understand why the Australian government was not making stronger attempts to deliver on it.

Nine out of 10 people opposed walking away from the Paris deal as the US did on 1 June, while almost two-thirds (61%) said Australia should “work harder” to ensure it met its overall goals.

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