TODAY’S STUDY: WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT NEW ENERGY
Energy and Environment Consumer Survey; Consumer Attitudes and Awareness toward 10 Smart Energy Concepts
Charul Vyas and Dave Hurst 4Q 2013 (Navigant Research)
Navigant Research conducted a consumer survey of 1,084 U.S. adults, based on a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample, during the third quarter of 2013. The survey included questions on a variety of energy topics, as well as a thorough examination of consumer demand for electric vehicles and smart grid technologies. Analysis of consumer demand for electric vehicles and smart grid technologies is featured in greater detail in two separate Navigant Research white papers: Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey and Smart Grid Consumer Survey.
The 2013 consumer survey also included a question aimed at ascertaining a more general view of consumer attitudes toward the following energy and environmental concepts:
» Clean Energy: › Solar energy › Wind energy › Nuclear power
» Clean Transportation › Hybrid vehicles › Electric cars › Natural gas vehicles › Biofuels
» Smart Grid › Smart grid › Smart meters
» Building Efficiency › LEED certification
In order to create this broad view of consumer opinions, Navigant Research presented the following question and possible responses to respondents: Please indicate your impression of each of the following concepts related to energy and the environment…» Strongly unfavorable » Somewhat unfavorable » Neutral » Favorable » Very favorable » N/A – Not sure/not familiar
This white paper presents all of the responses to this question as a basis for comparing consumer views of these topics to one another. In addition to favorable and unfavorable opinions, Navigant Research analyzes the number of respondents unfamiliar with a concept to compare the levels of consumer awareness within each topic.
Demographic breakouts by gender, age, income, and level of education are also included for each energy and environment topic. In some instances, specific demographic breakouts have sample sizes that are less than 50 respondents. Data from Asian Americans with a sample of 43 respondents, 49 respondents with incomes of $125,000 or more, and 38 respondents age 65 and above should be interpreted as directionally informative.
Chart 1.1 shows the percentage of favorable and very favorable responses to each of the 10 topics presented in the survey with the following noteworthy findings:
» Close to 80% of respondents favored the concept of solar energy, which led all concepts in favorable responses, followed by wind energy (72%).
» Consumers also held favorable views of alternative fuel vehicles including hybrid vehicles (67%), electric cars (61%), and natural gas vehicles (56%).
» LEED certification showed the least level of favorability (22%), largely due to low awareness of the topic.
Chart 1.2 includes the percentage of unfavorable responses, while Chart 1.3 indicates the percentage of respondents who were unfamiliar with or neutral on each topic. These summary charts reveal the following key results:
» Nuclear power had the most unfavorable impression among respondents (32%), followed by electric cars. All other energy and environment concepts had negative favorability below 10%.
» Consumers were the least familiar with LEED certification; nearly three-fourths of respondents reported that they were not familiar with or neutral on the concept. Solar energy and wind were recognizable to most consumers, with 16% of consumers selecting the not familiar/neutral option for solar energy and 20% selecting the not familiar/neutral option for wind energy.
Table 1.1 summarizes the favorable impressions (top two boxes) of energy and environmental concepts for each year, based on Navigant Research’s annual survey results, between 2009 and 2013. For concepts where there is a year-over-year change that falls beyond the 3% margin of error an up or down arrow is shown, indicating that these concepts have seen a change from the previous year. Not all concepts were asked about from the start of the survey, and those that were not in earlier surveys are indicated with an N/A.
Between 2009 and 2012, there were steady declines in favorability for some concepts, particularly the most favorable concepts such as solar energy, wind energy, hybrid vehicles, and electric cars. However, results in the 2013 survey indicated a rebound in consumer favorability for a number of concepts, along with a significant increase in average favorability to 51%, the highest level since 2010.
Table 1.2 shows the unfavorable responses (bottom two boxes) to the 10 energy and environment concepts covered by the survey. In 2013, respondents’ unfavorable impressions of hybrid vehicles and electric cars decreased significantly, while unfavorable views of nuclear power increased significantly. Overall, there was no significant change in the average level of unfavorable views across the 10 concepts between 2012 and 2013…
Summary and Conclusions
Consumer opinions of the clean energy concepts were generally positive, particularly for solar and wind energy, a trend that has been seen in previous Navigant Research consumer surveys. These results reveal that solar and wind power have reached a point of mass appeal among consumers. The non-renewable clean energy concept of nuclear power did not enjoy the same level of enthusiasm from the respondent base. Nuclear power also earned the highest percentage of unfavorable and neutral responses among all energy and environmental concepts. Women, younger, and less educated consumers tend to have a lower opinion of nuclear power, indicating that education on the advantages of nuclear power will require some additional efforts within these groups. In general, consumer favorability with clean energy, as well as other environmental topics, increased with education level and income.
Consumers also held favorable opinions of clean transportation concepts, though the favorable opinions were lower than levels achieved by solar and wind energy. Hybrid vehicles, electric cars, and natural gas vehicles were all considered favorable by more than half of all respondents. Biofuels were favored by more than two-fifths of respondents (43%) and received the highest incidence of unfamiliar or neutral responses (48%) among the clean transportation concepts. Interestingly, alternative fuels, natural gas vehicles, and biofuels have significant contrasting opinion ratings between the genders with significantly higher favorability reported by males. In general, favorability for these alternative fuel vehicles also tended to be higher among older and more educated respondents.
It can be expected that hybrid vehicles garnered the highest percentage of favorable votes for alternative fuel vehicles given that models such as the Toyota Prius have been available for some time. As more battery electric vehicles have become available and more consumers have become exposed to these cars, the favorable opinion of electric vehicles has rebounded after trending lower over the past couple years (61% favorability up from 49% in 2012 and 55% in 2011). As in previous years, Navigant Research found that natural gas-powered vehicles received favorability ratings similar to electric cars, even though natural gas powered-vehicles are largely limited to commercial fleets.
Consumer reactions to the smart grid and smart meters concepts appeared less positive, with smaller percentages of favorable responses than the clean energy and transportation topics. However, this does not translate into consumers holding negative views of smart grid or smart meters. In fact, only 10% of respondents rated smart meters unfavorable, and only 6% rated smart grids unfavorable.
As in previous years, there were a high number of respondents reporting they were unfamiliar with or held neutral opinions of these concepts. As smart grid and smart meter deployments and installations continue, it is clear that consumer education is still needed. This is particularly true regarding the energy savings potential of smart grid technologies, which can directly benefit how much consumers spend on energy. Special outreach may be needed to help improve opinion among women and younger consumers.
The only building efficiency topic included in this survey was LEED certification. As in previous Energy and Environment Consumer Surveys, consumers continue to state that they are not acquainted with the concept. While this low level of familiarity among the general population is challenging, a positive finding is that consumers do not generally hold adverse opinions of the concept. In other words, there are not as many negative perceptions to overcome. Therefore, all that may be required to increase consumer favorability toward LEED certification programs is increased awareness of the certification program and its principles, particularly among women…