A new poll released by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis found that, while Massachusetts electric utility customers generally support wind energy, this support erodes rapidly if wind projects contribute to an increase in electric bills. The poll found 55 percent of respondents report they would not pay more for electricity produced by wind turbines.
The higher the increase to electric bills, the less likely respondents said they were to support the Cape Wind project. When asked if they would be more likely or less likely to support the Cape Wind project if National Grid’s purchase of power from Cape Wind increased their National Grid electric bill, the support for the project diminished as costs to consumers grew.
According to poll authors, “While 42 percent of respondents are less likely to support the Cape Wind project if their bill increased by $50 per year, this percentage increases to 67 percent at the $100 increase per year threshold, and to 78 percent at the $150 increase per year threshold.”
“Despite the fact that 75 percent of respondents support or strongly support wind-power projects, they are particularly price sensitive to increases to their electric bills as a result of the increased cost to produce offshore wind energy,” said Clyde Barrow, director of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis. “Support for the project declines significantly as the estimated effect on a respondent’s electric bill increases.”
The survey also found that support for lower electric bills trumps wind energy at the ballot box.
“In terms of wind power, electric rates and support for political candidates, respondents report they are much more likely to vote for a candidate who endorses policies that cut their electric bill (43 percent) in comparison to candidates who support wind-power projects (26 percent).”
National Grid recently announced it would purchase the power from Cape Wind, and according to the Boston Herald, analysts predict negotiations will produce a rate more than double the current prices for natural gas in Massachusetts. This prediction is controversial.
Deepwater Wind, a similar project in Rhode Island, generated widespread opposition when its deal to sell power to National Grid came in at nearly three times the price of natural gas in Rhode Island.
The UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis surveyed 436 National Grid customers across Massachusetts over two days. The full poll results are available at www.umassd.edu.