1. ATTITUDES TOWARDS VARIOUS ENERGY FORMS
Basic attitudes towards energy forms were measured by asking citizens which way our country’s electricity generation should be developed with respect to various energy alternatives. Eight energy sources of electricity generation in current use were assessed. Each of them had to be weighed separately on a seven-tier scale (‘increase considerably’ – ‘phase out completely’). This question has been repeated in a basically comparable form annually since the autumn of 1983.
The comparison of percentages of people in favour of increasing or decreasing the use of various energy forms gives a simplified picture of the 'ranking' of these energy forms. Wood and other bioenergy (83% are in favour of an increase and 3% in favour of a decrease) as well as wind power (83%/5%)1 prove to be by far the most popular forms of energy. The attitudes towards hydropower (66%/4%) are also fairly positive [Figure 1.].
Natural gas (43%/16%) and peat (43%/25%) form a group of energy forms that are ‘favoured with reservations’. The respondents wanted both energy forms to be increased rather than decreased, but opinions are already indicating some polarisation.
Nuclear power divides opinions in approximately the same proportion. This time, two out of five (40%) of the respondents supported its increase and about one in four of respondents favoured its decrease (24%). Attitudes towards coal and oil are clearly the most negative. A clear majority of Finns (73% and 72%) would like to decrease their use.
The fact that so-called alternative energy beats conventional production methods is not surprising as such; similar results have been obtained in various contexts for twenty years. However, the share of the present use of energy forms under review should be taken into account in the interpretation. In the current production reality, some are in the ‘heavy league’ and others are mainly challengers aiming to play a supplementing role. Therefore, ‘considerable increase of use’ takes on a different meaning with respect to various energy forms. For example, if the production of wind power were to be increased tenfold, it would achieve a share of about two per cent of all electricity produced; however, with some other alternative a smaller increase in capacity would put it in a dominant position.
Taking the intensity of opinions into account (response categories have been combined in the above) it can be said of all the alternatives that coal power has the most absolute opposition. About one in six respondents (18%) would like to reject coal altogether. The second highest figure (10%) was given to nuclear power. This information – the low level of the figures – indicates that, despite the criticism expressed, people want to keep the diversity of the production structure, and the phase-out of nuclear power has only a few supporters in Finland, from the international viewpoint. The difference between nuclear power and coal is noteworthy in that when the follow-up has progressed, the energy forms have switched places. This is the third time that the position of the 'most dreadful one' is given to coal. From 1983 to 2002 this position was always given to nuclear power (not in the figure).
1Bars describing equal numbers are of unequal lengths in the figure because the sums of distributions calculated from rounded percentages are of an unequal size. For wood the sum of the percentages of the response alternatives is 99%, and for wind power the sum is 101% (The range of variation of statistically correct sums is 98–102).