Renewables considered good pension investments: new Whitehouse poll

Britons believe pension investments in renewables such as solar power deliver as good a return as investments in traditional commodities such as oil and gas, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned by energy policy specialists the Whitehouse Consultancy.

Nearly a third of respondents believed renewable technologies including solar and wind would yield the greatest return (32%), despite recent high profile campaigns which have highlighted pension fund holdings in fossil fuels. 18% said solar power would provide the greatest returns, while 7% said wind and 7% said hydropower.

A total of thirty-three percent of Britons expected higher pension returns on traditional commodities of oil and gas (18%), nuclear (14%) and coal (1%). Only 1% of respondents thought investment in coal would provide the greatest return. The Whitehouse Consultancy has suggested the findings show the successful promotion of renewables as pension investment options, and the limited success of existing fossil fuel campaigns.

People in Scotland were more likely to say that investment in renewables would lead to the greatest return with nearly half (44%) believing this to be the case, and people in Wales thought that investment in solar in particular would yield the greatest returns (19%).

Helen Munro, Managing Director of the Whitehouse Consultancy, said:

“This poll shows that the public are aware of some of the benefits of investing in renewable technologies. However, we would argue that the pensions industry can do more to educate the public on what their pensions are being invested in, and the likely returns on that investment. Otherwise, the opportunities of investment in renewables might be lost – which is disappointing for investors and will negatively impact on the development of renewables.

This will be crucial in the coming years as the UK accelerates the rate of decarbonisation to meet the targets of the 2008 Climate Change Act, and as we as a society attempt to mitigate against climate change.”

Nigel Labram of Low Carbon, said:

“It is great to see that the public are aware of the excellent investment outlook for clean technologies such as solar PV. The renewables sector is a huge success story for the UK economy; with jobs in the industry growing at more than seven times the national average and I am pleased the public are increasingly recognising this”

“There is a growing public mandate for pension funds to divest their unsustainable holdings in fossil fuels, and this poll is an important addition to that evidence base. But it is critical that divested funds are matched by a similar increase in investment in clean alternatives. With the Paris climate conference taking place in December, this year represents a unique opportunity for managers to build innovative investment models that embrace the proven returns available in the green economy”.

Poll results

Q: Which ONE of the following industries do you think provides the greatest long-term return on investment for pension funds?

Oil & gas 18%
Solar 18%
Nuclear 14%
Wind 7%
Hydropower / Tidal 7%
Coal 1%
Don’t know 36%

Base: GB adults (n=2,001)

Methodology Note: ComRes interviewed 2,001 British adults online between 5th and 7th June 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.