National poll finds American homeowners want energy choices

The poll confirmed that 88 percent of Americans support renewable energy

March 11, 2014

Clean Edge Inc. and SolarCity announced the results of an inaugural national poll of U.S. homeowners regarding clean-energy products and services. The poll found that a majority of homeowners, 69 percent, want more choices when it comes to their energy and electricity supply. National polling firm Zogby Analytics was commissioned to conduct the poll. The new report, "U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy: A National Survey," is available for download at www.solarcity.com/insideenergy and www.cleanedge.com/reports.

The poll confirmed that a significant majority of Americans (88 percent of homeowners) support renewable energy. It was also among the first to ask homeowners directly if they would be interested in solar for their own homes —62 percent said yes. This is particularly notable, given that there are more than 75-million owner-occupied housing units in the U.S., and fewer than 500,000 photovoltaic installations.

The SolarCity-Clean Edge poll also reveals the persistence of a myth that clean-energy products are not affordable. Less than half of all homeowners nationally understand that solar power is more affordable today than it was three years ago, despite the reality that prices for solar panels have dropped by more than half over this time period, and solar electricity prices can beat utility rates in a growing number of locations.

While homeowners generally view their current electric utility favorably, 73 percent of homeowners also said they would welcome clean energy provided by an entity other than their utility. Some utilities have attempted to impose fees and taxes on solar customers as a way of suppressing rooftop solar deployment, but energy providers should take note. Three out of four poll respondents voiced opposition to these types of efforts, saying that utilities should not be allowed to enforce restrictions on onsite energy systems. Though the sentiment was shared across all demographics, it was strongest among Republicans, conservatives, and middle-aged or elderly homeowners.

"Other surveys have looked at general green-consumer activity, but ours is among the first to focus on U.S. homeowners—a group that makes the majority of clean-energy residential purchases," said Clean Edge managing director Ron Pernick in a release. "The shift to clean-energy solutions was deep and wide across all demographics. Indeed, consumers not only want choice, but also want to protect their right to install their own distributed energy and storage systems."

Additional key report findings:

  • Economics are driving adoption. Respondents cite zero up-front costs and ongoing cost savings as the top two reasons for considering solar for their homes.
  • Approximately 70 percent of all homeowners consider or investigate the sustainability of big-ticket items when making purchasing decisions, and more than half are more likely to take sustainability considerations into account today than they were three years ago.
  • The most popular planned clean-energy purchases in the next year are LED light bulbs (31 percent of homeowners), followed by smart thermostats, double- or triple-pane windows, hybrid cars, and Energy Star-rated hot water heaters.
  • Over the past decade, clean-energy products and services—including solar PV, utility-scale renewables, hybrid electric vehicles, and green buildings — have experienced double-digit compound annual growth rates more akin to smartphones and the Internet than that of the energy and transportation sectors.

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