Polling: majority willing to chip in on energy bills to undermine Russia’s gas war chest

Clear majority (59%) of people are willing to pay extra on energy bills if it helps undermine Russia's war in Ukraine, with only 24% not.

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By George Smeeton


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New polling [1] from Opinium conducted for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has found that a clear majority (59%) of people are willing to pay extra on energy bills if it helps undermine Russia's war in Ukraine, with only 24% not.

This applies also to those in Red Wall constituencies (Conservative gains in the 2019 general election), 58% of whom are willing to pay more.

The UK gets 4% of its gas demand from Russia. At today's wholesale gas price, the UK would spend £2.3billion on Russian gas in a year, equivalent to £6.3million per day, if it continues to import that amount of gas from Russia. [2]. Russia has been building up a ‘war chest’ in recent years in part thanks to its fossil fuel revenues. [3]

Replacing Russian LNG (liquified natural gas) in the short-term with other sources, likely LNG from other countries, could add to UK costs with the international price of gas so high. According to experts, it would take years to bring extra North Sea sources online, with new wells not reaching peak output until 2028, before declining a few years later. [4] Fracking in the UK is deeply unpopular with the public. [5]

The polling also found a clear majority (57%) of the public see the best way of eliminating UK dependence on Russian gas in the longer-term as reducing our use of gas all together, and instead expanding renewables. Less than a third (29%) see increasing the UK's domestic supply of gas through expanded drilling and fracking as the solution.

Commenting, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, Head of Analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: Brits are willing to chip in to get the UK off Russian gas and see net zero policies as the solution, which means expanding British renewables and insulating homes so they waste less energy. More gas won’t bring down the energy bills of those struggling to pay, but insulation can and does so permanently.”

Saqib Bhatti, Member of Parliament for Meriden, said: “We must reduce our dependency on Russian gas and oil to defund Putin's military machine and support Ukraine.

“As Europe moves away from the Kremlin's gas, energy prices will rise, but net zero offers the solution. Renewables offer a route to cheap, clean homegrown energy. That is why the government has the right approach with its net zero ambitions.

“In the short term, this research shows people want to see the government step up efforts to install insulation and heat pumps that are now cheaper to run than gas boilers. This could help reduce our exposure to volatile global gas markets and lower bills."

Installation of insulation and heat pumps will help to reduce gas use among households. The government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme will start in April, making £5,000 available for homes to switch from gas boilers to electric heat pumps. There are an estimated 9 million homes in the UK that have good levels of thermal efficiency and could have a heat pump fitted easily. [6].

British Gas owner Centrica is in talks [7] to exit its supply deals with Russian gas firm Gazprom “as a matter of urgency.” And dockers in Kent have refused to unload two tankers carrying Russian gas. [8]


Notes to editors:

1. Sample of 2000 UK adults, conducted 1st – 3rd March 2022

2. https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2022/uk-could-spend-6-3million-per-day-on-russian-gas-in-2022

3. https://www.statista.com/chart/26942/gold-foreign-exchange-reserves-of-central-bank-of-russia/

4. Analysis by ECIU and Uplift, using data by Rystad Energy.

5. https://eciu.net/insights/2021/reheating-the-shale-gas-debate-will-not-solve-the-gas-crunch. Also, latest Government polling shows 45% oppose fracking and only 17% support it. See, Public Attitudes Tracker, BEIS (December 2021):https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1040725/BEIS_PAT_Autumn_2021_Energy_Infrastructure_and_Energy_Sources.pdf

6. The Energy Systems Catapult has found that all housing types are suitable for heat pumps: https://es.catapult.org.uk/news/electrification-of-heat-trial-finds-heat-pumps-suitable-for-all-housing-types/

Some homes require extra insulation for a heat pump to operate optimally, but homes with an EPC rating of A-C are likely to need little or no extra insulation. ECIU estimates that this accounts for around 9million UK homes, based on taking the number in each EPC band, sharing out in proportion those that don’t yet have an EPC rating, and matching the total to the UK housing stock of 28million homes.

7. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/centrica-to-cut-ties-with-gazprom-7b2nmzr8f

8. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-60619112

For more information:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: george.smeeton@eciu.net