Poll: Americans overwhelmingly support renewable energy incentives

Source:Clean Edge, Inc.

A nation divided on a range of issues appears overwhelmingly united in its support of renewable energy, according to a new poll commissioned by Clean Edge and SolarCity

While members of Congress appear divided on whether or not to extend federal incentives for clean energy, their constituents are not, according to a national poll of U.S. homeowners commissioned by Clean Edge, Inc. and SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY) and conducted by national polling firm Zogby Analytics. In the second annual survey, 74 percent of Americans polled favored continuing federal tax incentives that support the growth of the solar and wind industries, including 82% of Democrats, two thirds of Republicans (67%) and 72% of Independents.

A nation divided on a range of issues appears overwhelmingly united in its support of renewables, with nearly nine in ten Americans (87%) saying renewable energy is important to the country's future. When homeowners were asked to pick which specific energy sources were most important to the nation's future, solar (50%) and wind (42%) led the pack, followed by natural gas (33%) and energy efficiency (25%). Lower in the rankings were one-time energy stalwarts nuclear power (14%) and coal (8%). Solar power was the top choice among a wide range of demographic groups including Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, city and rural dwellers, youth, and the elderly. 

When homeowners were asked to pick which specific energy sources were most important to the nation's future, solar (50%) and wind (42%) led the pack, followed by natural gas (33%) and energy efficiency (25%).

"There's a misconception that the nation is divided on its attitudes toward clean energy, but our research shows this to be false," says Clean Edge managing director and report lead author Ron Pernick. "There is broad support for renewables across the political spectrum. Opposition to solar fees charged by utilities, for example, is higher among Republicans (66%) than Democrats (53%)."

Additional Key Report Findings:

  • Survey respondents say they care about the environment, but it's cost savings that truly motivate them. Similar to last year's findings, "saving money" (82%) tops the list as the primary motivator influencing homeowners' decisions to purchase clean-energy products and services.
  • When making investment decisions, a majority of homeowners say that they consider the social/environmental impact of their investments (52%). Three quarters (74%) said that such investments would be compelling if they offered a "potentially higher return than other options." More than 60% said that such investments would be compelling if they offered "equal or higher return than other options." When it comes to investments, sustainability doesn't trump returns, however. Support drops to 22% when such investments offer a "slightly lower return than other options."
  • Over the next year, the most planned clean-energy purchase by homeowners is LED light bulbs (27%), followed by smart thermostats, Energy Star-rated hot water heaters, double- or triple-pane windows, and hybrid cars.
  • Support for natural gas and nuclear decline significantly with younger respondents. Natural gas was supported by those over 70 (43%) but dropped down to 27% for those aged 18-24. Nuclear power was supported by those over 70 (24%) but dropped precipitously to 8% for ages 25-34 and to just 1% for ages 18-24.
  • In addition to analyzing results from the public survey, the report also looked at clean-energy adoption rates in the U.S. through the end of 2013. The 11-year compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) for the purchase of clean-energy products and services continue to be in the double digits, with LEED-certified projects at 56%, solar PV at 52%, hybrid electric vehicles at 24%, and utility-scale clean electricity generation at 20%. Between 2009 and 2013, LEDs experienced a CAGR of 145% and EVs chalked up a 309% CAGR between 2010 and 2013.

1,400 U.S. homeowners participated in the survey conducted by Zogby Analytics. Respondents were randomly selected to answer questions about renewables, energy efficiency, clean transportation, green investing, conventional energy sources, electric utilities, and other related topics. All interviews were completed in late January 2014. Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.7 percentage points.

Click here to download the report, "U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy: A National Survey," (pdf)

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