[The Vector] NREL: Consumer Attitudes About Renewable Energy: Trends and Regional Differences

In April 2011 report, a new report was released by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory).  It takes a look at American awareness, attitudes, knowledge and usage of renewable energy and the study further breaks down these views regionally. Some surprising results came from the study.

The data was taken from the Natural Marketing Institute’s Lifestyle of Health & Sustainability (LOHAS) consumer database, with about 4,000 national responses by U.S. adults.

Overall bullet point findings include:

  • 80%, a majority of consumers, indicate they care about the use of renewable energy, but this concern has diminished slightly over time. When it comes to consumers who said they would be willing to pay more for renewable energy, the numbers dropped significantly.
  • Consumers associate renewable energy with environmental benefits, despite other potential benefits that renewable energy has to offer such as better health benefits, jobs or energy security.
  • Consumer awareness remains low as regards renewable energy purchase options – only 1 in 6 were aware of the green options provided by their own electric suppliers.
  • Consumers in the U.S. West are more aware of renewable energy terminology, and are more aware of purchase options than their counterparts. They are also less price sensitive.
  • 7% of the respondents reports buying some renewable energy for their home.
  • Opportunities exist for continued market growth of renewable energy, but the low awareness levels do represent a challenge.  Consumer education and awareness of clean energy must grow in order for the industry to grow.

Consumer Perceptions and Terminology

“Generating market interest in renewable energy starts with raising awareness of commonly used terms,” states the report.  Since the National Marketing Institute began tracking awareness in 2008, there has been a growth of understanding of commonly-used terms, such as “carbon footprint”. In fact, “carbon footprint” has overtaken the term “renewable power” in awareness. The report suggests that many consumers know or understand the terms such as solar or wind power, but not all are aware of what is encompassed by the term “renewable power.”

85% of consumers understand the term “biodegradable” while only 60% understand the term “sustainability.”  The report points out that awareness of a term does not equate to really understanding, but it is a start.

West coasters are significantly more aware of the terms “carbon footprint”, carbon offset” and “renewable power” than others, yet one-quarter of the Western population is still unaware of the term “renewable power.”  The industry has clear work to do.

Perceived Benefits by Consumers

Four categories of answer came to the question, “I believe the most important benefit of renewable power is that it’s…”:

…better for the environment than current power sources (46%)

…a source of energy from the U.S. (24%)

…better for human health than current power sources (10%)

…better for the economy than current power sources (8%)

Messages relating to health and economic benefit have not been effective in the green industry to date, which could represent an opportunity.  And only a quarter believe that generating our own renewable energy is a U.S. energy security issue.

… to be continued…

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Posted in Renewables - Science
0 comments on “[The Vector] NREL: Consumer Attitudes About Renewable Energy: Trends and Regional Differences
  1. [...] green energy started this decade with high approval ratings from voters. A poll commissioned by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2002 found 89 percent of the people they polled “cared” about using renewable energy. But by [...]

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