A new survey from Pike Research finds consumer support for clean energy technologies dropped seven percent from 2009 to 2011. While all technologies declined in support, solar and wind energy remained the most popular but biofuels saw the most dramatic drop.
Survey findings also indicate that while consumer opinions of clean energy are generally positive, a lack of awareness leads to generally low favorability ratings and may equate lack of political support for promising clean energy concepts.
The annual “Energy & Environment Consumer Survey,” conducted among 1,048 US consumers during Fourth Quarter 2011, provides interesting insight into public attitudes toward 13 clean energy technologies. Five technologies received a majority “very favorable” or “favorable” view: solar energy (77 percent), wind energy (71 percent), hybrid vehicles (61 percent), electric cars (55 percent), and natural gas cars (51 percent).
Six technologies received double-digit “strongly unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” responses: carbon offsets/credits (25 percent), nuclear power (23 percent), cap and trade (22 percent), electric cars (16 percent), clean coal (12 percent), and hybrid vehicles (10 percent).
Solar and wind on top
Overall, solar energy looks like the clear clean energy technology winner among consumers. Solar received both the highest percentage of favorable opinions and the lowest percentage of both unfavorable opinions and “not sure/not familiar” responses. Pike Research attributes the high level of consumer acceptance to solar’s relatively long history in the market, variety of applications, and non-intrusive nature, and says it “bodes well for an increase in solar power generation.”
Wind energy was a close second to solar energy, receiving the second-highest percentage of favorable opinions and second-lowest percentage of both unfavorable responses and “not sure/not familiar” responses. The overall positive reception toward these two technologies led the report to assert “consumers consider these two renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future.”
Low understanding = low support
Biofuels saw the largest drop in support from 2009 to 2011, and favorable views were less common than for any other clean transportation concept. Favorability fell 17 percent across the two surveys to 39 percent. However, biofuels only had nine percent unfavorable responses and 16 percent “not sure/not familiar,” indicating the overall drop may have more to do with a lack of consumer understanding.
Along those same lines, the three technologies that had the highest “not sure/not familiar” responses were also among the bottom four in favorable impressions. LEED Certification (45 percent unfamiliar, 18 percent favorable), cap and trade (36 percent unfamiliar, 14 percent favorable), and smart grid (30 percent unfamiliar, 37 percent favorable) all seem to show that lack of consumer understanding leads to lack of support – an important distinction considering these three technologies would be among the most effective in reducing energy demand or emissions.
Source: Green Car Congress