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1. Why did you do a study on Australian attitudes about the energy transition?

Australia is transitioning to a low carbon energy system. This energy transition is transforming the way energy is generated, transmitted, stored, exported and used. Part of the extensive changes to our energy system is the roll out of large-scale infrastructure, which presents potential challenges and opportunities for communities and the wider public.

It is important to understand Australian attitudes and perceptions of the energy transition and large-scale renewable energy infrastructure to inform and improve planning, programs and other initiatives undertaken by government, industry, and communities as part of the energy transition. The survey also forms a basis for monitoring and understanding Australian attitudes toward the renewable energy transition as it rolls out over time.

2. Who funded the research?

The survey was conducted by CSIRO in collaboration with Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW). It was jointly funded by CSIRO and DCCEEW.

3. What did the survey cover?

The national survey, conducted in partnership with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, sought to better understand: 

  • Australians’ general attitudes toward the energy transition
  • Public perceptions about living near large-scale renewable energy infrastructure.

The survey asked people about four types of renewable energy infrastructure:

  • solar farms
  • onshore windfarms
  • offshore windfarms
  • associated transmission lines needed to carry renewable energy to the electricity grid.

A diverse range of people were surveyed, in all states and territories, in capital cities and regional areas, and including those living near existing or proposed renewable energy developments. 

4. Where did you conduct the study and when?

The survey was conducted from August-September 2023, more than 6,700 people were surveyed in all states and territories, in capital cities and regional areas.

5. How was the survey conducted?

CSIRO designed the survey and sampling approach and engaged an external company to conduct the survey, largely online with face-to-face interviews in key areas.

Survey questions were informed by past research to ensure the survey was accurately measuring the opinions and attitudes underpinning participants’ views towards the energy transition and related infrastructure of interest.

6. How did you choose who to survey?

The aim of the survey was to get a sample of people that accurately represented the range and diversity of views across Australia – that meant surveying people in all states and territories, in regional areas and cities, from different age groups. It was a representative survey of the general Australian community that included sampling people with experiences of living near renewable energy infrastructure. To ensure the sample included people living near renewable energy infrastructure, broad regions of interest were oversampled. These included areas near existing solar farms and windfarms, as well as selected proposed transmission line routes and offshore windfarm areas.

7. Why did the survey focus on solar, onshore and offshore wind and transmission lines?

These four infrastructure types are the fastest expanding renewable energy and related electricity infrastructure projects in Australia affecting the most people. This research builds on a national survey conducted by CSIRO in 2020 on Australian social attitudes toward large-scale solar farms (Walton et al., 2021)

8. Why ask people living in urban settings what they would think about living near renewable energy infrastructure when most development takes place in regional areas?

All Australians have an interest in the transition, and understanding the difference in views across locations and demographics is what makes this survey useful. Communicating the results of the survey back to the general community, as well as government and industry, also helps make people aware of the diversity of views and experiences.

9. How was the survey conducted and what sorts of questions were asked?

The survey took 20 minutes to complete on average, with approximately 150 question items. 

There were three sections of questions:

  • Initial quota screening questions and demographics to achieve sample representativeness, sorting participants into scenarios, and profiling the sample.
  • Scenario and related questions about living near a hypothetical renewable energy infrastructure project. These questions explored social acceptability factors.
  • Attitudes and perceptions of the energy transition, where people got their information from and how well they understood renewable energy technology and the renewable energy transition.

10. Why did you ask about attitudes to climate change?

Climate change beliefs represent people’s current view about climate change and its causes. These beliefs may influence how people think about the renewable energy transition.

For example, the survey showed that believing in human-caused climate change was associated with higher interest in the energy transition and preferences on the rate of change seemed to be, in part, shaped by views on climate change.

11. Why did you ask about transmission lines?

Transmission lines are needed to get renewable energy to the electricity grid and are an essential component of the renewable energy transition. New transmission lines are being built or are proposed in several locations throughout Australia.

12. Was anything excluded from the research report?

The survey asked people questions on existing or planned renewable energy infrastructure – solar farms, onshore and offshore windfarms and transmission lines. Participants were asked generally about their knowledge of other technologies that are not yet considered or in development. 

Results for all survey questions are presented in the reports.

13. Did you ask about attitudes to nuclear energy?

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.

14. Did you survey people living near current or proposed renewable energy infrastructure developments? How do you know if you asked people with real experiences or concerns?

A key aim of the survey was to gather the views of people who lived near existing or proposed renewable energy infrastructure.

Part 2 of the survey findings uses results from scenarios around hypothetical renewable energy developments (solar farms, onshore and offshore windfarms, and associated transmission infrastructure). Most participants were randomly allocated to a scenario of living near either a proposed solar farm, onshore windfarm, offshore windfarm, or associated transmission line route. Participants who lived near existing solar and onshore windfarms or proposed offshore windfarms and transmission infrastructure were assigned to scenarios relevant to them, based on their postcode.

15. Why does CSIRO do this work?

CSIRO has more than a decade of experience measuring and understanding the social licence for new infrastructure across a range of industries. CSIRO’s research is independent and science based, and helps inform governments, industry and communities for their planning and decision making.

The survey builds on a 2020 survey that measured peoples’ attitudes to utility-scale solar farms. This survey was a large and representative sample which reflected views across the Australian population and across locations and was broadened to include attitudes toward onshore and offshore windfarms and renewable energy transmission lines.

The reports were internally reviewed by independent CSIRO scientists not involved with the surveys, and with backgrounds in energy and social science.

16. How do I find out more about the research?

The reports are available on our website. Here you can also find a link to the survey dashboard, where you can explore the survey responses interactively.

17. What’s next for this work?

The research methodology is designed so the survey can be conducted again to see how attitudes have changed and can include other technologies related to the energy transition.

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