A strong majority of American homeowners want more choice on where to get their energy.
This result should not be surprising in a country that values freedom of choice. But now we have the figures to back it up.
Today, Clean Edge, Inc., a cleantech research and advisory firm, and solar provider SolarCity (Nasdaq:SCTY) announced the results of a new national poll, the first to focus on how U.S. homeowners feel about clean-energy products and services. The report, "U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy: A National Survey," is available for download at www.solarcity.com/insideenergy and www.cleanedge.com/reports.
This homeowner survey is a valuable tool for the solar industry, so we’re glad to hear that SolarCity and Clean Edge plan to release the survey annually.
Support for renewables
What were the key report findings?
The survey confirmed that not only do Americans want choice, but a significant majority, 88%, say they support renewable energy.
"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," says Clean Edge managing director Ron Pernick. "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."
This isn’t just talk among those polled. Over the past decade, solar PV and other clean-energy products and services have experienced double-digit compound annual growth rates more commonly associated with smartphones and the Internet than with the energy and transportation sectors.
Interest in solar power coupled with lack of price awareness
The poll was among the first to ask homeowners directly if they would be interested in solar for their own homes. While 62% said yes, only 7% said they were likely to purchase solar for their home in the next year. This aligns with the fact that there are more than 75 million owner-occupied housing units in the U.S., yet fewer than 500,000 solar PV installations.
Why is that? It’s likely influenced by the persistence of the myth that solar is 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 during that time period, and solar electricity prices can beat utility rates in a growing number of locations. Clearly, more consumer education is needed.
This is particularly important in light of the fact that 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.
About 70% of homeowners say they 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. Yet that didn’t seem to apply as much to solar, perhaps because it’s seen as an expensive item.
Options beyond utilities
While a majority of homeowners are somewhat to very satisfied with their current electric utility, 73% 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 are being urged to 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. This bears out the increase we saw last year in support for solar among conservative groups, such as Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK) and the Green Tea Coalition.
National polling firm Zogby Analytics was commissioned to conduct the poll. More than 1,400 U.S. homeowners participated in the survey. Respondents were randomly selected to answer questions about renewables, energy efficiency, clean transportation, energy storage, and related topics. All interviews were completed in January 2014. The margin of error for the survey is =/- 2.7 percentage points.