Wednesday, February 01, 2006

European citizens in favour of a European Energy policy, says Eurobarometer

A majority of EU citizens (47%) would prefer European level decisions on the new energy challenges such as energy supply security, growing energy consumption and climate change, 37% and 8% prefer energy decisions on a national or local level respectively. This is one of the conclusions of a Eurobarometer poll presented today by Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. Those people asked would choose renewable energy and R&D as the means to tackle such problems and are willing to learn how to use energy more efficiently. "The message from the citizens is a clear one – energy is a concern for all Europeans and people expect clear and concrete actions on all political levels. Europe needs a real energy policy focused on security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability" said Commissioner Piebalgs.

The survey, conducted between the October 11 and November 15, 2005 in the 25 EU Member States and acceding candidate countries, reveals that citizens consider renewables, research & technology as the main means at national level to reduce the current energy dependency. Almost half of all EU citizens (48%) believe that their national government should focus on developing the use of solar power followed by promoting advanced research for new energy technologies (41%) and developing the use of wind power (31%). Regulation for the reduction of dependence on oil (23%) and developing the use of nuclear power (12%) are less appreciated among the respondents.

Public opinion seems to be aware of the vital role energy plays in economic competitiveness. In fact, results of the last Eurobarometer wave[1] show that a more efficient use of energy is seen as a means to improve the performance of the European Economy by 1 out of 4 citizens within the European Union (26%, 2 points more than in the last Eurobarometer).

"I want to save energy, but tell me how"

The Poll also reveals that European citizens are interested in learning more about energy efficiency, especially because of the impact that certain energy saving measures could have on their bills. Most European citizens (43%) would like to receive more information on efficient use of energy. Also such incentives as tax reduction to encourage energy efficiency are regarded as a priority that public authorities should focus on. This view is supported by 40% of EU citizens.

Eight out of 10 citizens take energy consumption into account when purchasing energy consuming devices. The attention is higher when buying cars or refrigerators (almost 60% state they pay much attention) than for light bulbs (43%).

Despite significant variations between countries, it can be said that citizens seem to be more concerned about energy consumption in the new Member States than in the EU-15 group. Behaviour concerning light bulbs is revealing: among the six countries where the result for "a lot of attention" exceeds 50%, five are new Member States. In Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy almost 6 out of 10 respondents stated that they paid a lot of attention to the energy consumption of light bulbs, while in Spain, Greece or Ireland this proportion decreases to 3 out of 10.

Ready for "affordable" efforts

A significant percentage of Europeans (40%), most likely those who are more sensitive to environmental issues, would be prepared to pay more for energy from renewable sources (2 points more, compared to the former survey[2]). 27% would even accept an increase of 5% (3 points more) and 13% a higher price rise. The evolution seems to confirm that the price "ceiling" is situated at a 5% price increase.

Yet the country to country analysis reveals the existence of significant differences between opinions of citizens in EU-15 and the new Member States. The latter group is more reluctant to pay higher prices for "green energy". The survey indicates that economic situation or the unemployment rate of one's country, can have an impact in this trend.

"Don't touch my car"

When it comes to changing the habits of the use of cars, the rise in fuel prices seems to have an impact only if a certain ceiling (around 2€/liter)[3] is reached: more than 2 out of 10 Europeans stated they would use their car "a lot less often" while 3 out of ten declared they would do so "a bit less often". Such a situation would have a more notable effect on citizens in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Austria with almost one third of the population stating that they would be prepared to significantly reduce the use of cars/vehicles. On the other hand, Irish, Cypriots, Maltese, Dutch, and particularly Slovenians (between 36% and 47%) would use their cars as often.

Eurobarometer survey :

[1] EB 64 Autumn wave. QA63: "Which of the following statements would you prioritise to improve the performance of the European economy?"

[2] Eurobarometer 57 carried out in 2002: "Would you be prepared to pay more for energy produced from renewable sources than for energy produced from other sources? (IF YES) How much more would be prepared to pay?"

[3] The price barrier was adapted in each country to the national situation.


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