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Pike Research survey finds erosion in US consumer support for clean energy since 2009; solar energy tops favorables, followed by wind, hybrid vehicles and EVs

Percentage of consumers having extremely or very favorable views of 13 clean energy technologies, 2009-2011. Data: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

According to a new survey from Pike Research, general consumer support for clean energy concepts—ranging from renewable energy to alternative fuel vehicles to smart grid technologies—has eroded in the US between 2009 and 2011. In a survey of more than 1,000 US adults conducted in the fourth quarter of 2011, the cleantech market intelligence firm found that the average percentage of consumers with an “extremely” or “very” favorable view of 13 clean energy concepts declined from 50% in 2009 to 45% in 2010, and dropped further to 43% in 2011.

Topping the favorables were solar power (77% in 2011, down from 81% in 2009); wind energy (71% in 2011, down from 79% in 2009); and hybrid vehicles (61% in 2011, down from 70% in 2009). Electric cars elicited the fourth highest percentage of favorable responses (55% in 2011, down from 62% in 2009) among the 13 topics covered in the survey.

Among the 13 clean energy concepts, biofuels suffered the most precipitous decline in favorability, dropping 17 points from 56% in the 2009 edition of Pike Research’s survey to 39% by 2011. Favorability ratings of smart grid and clean coal were tied for the second largest decline, each falling 10 points over the two-year period.

The percentages of survey respondents stating that they had either a “very favorable” or “favorable” view for each of the 13 concepts in 2009, 2010 and 2011 were as follows:

Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

Carbon offsets/credits garnered the largest percentage of “strongly unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views from survey participants, with a 25% unfavorable rating, followed closely by nuclear power with a 23% unfavorable rating and cap and trade with a 22% unfavorable rating. LEED Certification, the green building certification program administered by the US Green Building Council, suffered from a very low level of familiarity among respondents—45% stated that they were unfamiliar with the program, the lowest level of familiarity of any of the 13 energy and environment concepts.

Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. Hybrid vehicles also received the second fewest “not sure/not familiar” responses among all 13 concepts covered in the survey (4%). With a majority of favorable responses, only 10% unfavorable responses, and a low incidence of unfamiliarity, hybrid vehicles are another widely accepted clean technology among consumers, Pike said.

Pike found little variation across demographics with respect to the view of hybrid vehicles, although exceptions exist within education levels. Respondents with a high school or less than high school education reported a lower favorability rating while those with graduate degrees had the highest favorability rating (71%).

A segmentation analysis found that those respondents who categorized themselves as early adopters of new technologies held more positive views of hybrid vehicles while those that described themselves as laggards held less favorable opinions. In addition, respondents with electric bills ranging from $100 to $200 held more favorable opinions of hybrid vehicles, Pike noted.

With respect to electric vehicles, of the remaining 46% who did not have a favorable view, one-quarter were neutral (25%), some held unfavorable views (16%), and only a few respondents were unfamiliar with the concept (5%).

The least educated respondents had the lower favorability ratings for electric cars (44%), while the most educated had the highest favorability ratings (61%), a difference of 17 percentage points. Similarly, younger consumers held a more positive view of electric cars (61% for those under 30) than older consumers (46% for those old than 65). This data suggests that manufacturers of electric vehicles will commonly target consumers with higher levels of education, Pike said.

Early adopter and early majority groups held higher favorability ratings for electric vehicles. In addition, those with higher electric bills (monthly bills in excess of $300) looked more favorably upon electric vehicles.

The survey results, part of Pike Research’s annual Energy & Environment Consumer Survey, are summarized in a free white paper, “Energy & Environment Consumer Survey”, which is available for download on Pike Research’s website.

The results in the white paper are based on a web-based survey of 1,048 consumers conducted by Pike Research in the fourth quarter of 2011 using a structured online questionnaire. The survey invitation was sent to a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample of consumers who were members of a large online panel. Respondents were offered a chance to win prizes in exchange for their participation. The margin of error for these survey results is ± 3% with a 95% confidence interval.



'Carbon offsets/credits garnered the largest percentage of “strongly unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views from survey participants, with a 25% unfavorable rating, followed closely by nuclear power with a 23% unfavorable rating and cap and trade with a 22% unfavorable rating.'

The favourability ratings in 2011 for these were:
Carbon Offset 19%
Nuclear 40%
Cap and Trade 14%

So the unfavourable ratings must ignore all those who were neutral, as the maximum that could be neutral or negative to nuclear power is 60%, a balance of 20% not 23%


Natural gas (CNG or LNG) as a fuel for trucks is not even on this list and is the best idea!


Those bad numbers for Cap N' Trade are bad news for GE, AlGore, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, et. al.


Another interesting result is the 17% drop in favorability for biofuels...


While the title of this article is "Pike Research survey finds erosion in US consumer support for clean energy since 2009" and the text says "favorable view of 13 clean energy concepts declined from 50% in 2009 to 45% in 2010, and dropped further to 43% in 2011." a closer exam of the numbers tell me something different: A weeding out of the pack.

The clean energy concepts that "seem" the cleanest remain high while the concepts that seem less so suffer the biggest drops.

Smart meters gained 1 and smart grid is holding after a first year loss
LEEDs have lost 1 point after gaining 2
CapNtrade (that great Republican idea that they are only against because Obama agreed with them) lost only 2 points
Solar (which is truly clean) lost only 4 points
Carbon offsets lost 7 (how clean this can be depends on accountants being honest)
BEVs lost 7 (I guess people are still falling for the "long tailpipe" argument - but at least it's less of a loss than HEVs)
NGVs ?
Nukes 7
wind lost 8 (its image unfairly suffered because of the NIMBYs)
hybrids lost 9 (they're still powered by gasoline)
Clean coal 10 (clean coal is an oxymoron)
Biofuels 17 (people are seeing through the "yellow is green" scam but smart biofuels should place higher)


Somehow solar panels has cleanest public image. That is amazing. It is dirtiest thing among green paradigms. All dirt comes from manufacturing of this stuff and then very small "clean" drop of electricity. Wind power could be considered by any measure five fold cleaner.



100% FUD.

All production of modern everyday stuff involves dangerous chemicals. Even the computer you used to post this silly comment.

As long as these chemicals are confined to the production facilities and do not escape into the environment, there is no problem.



You have forgoten energy consumed during production and later on very small output. Those are life cycle analysis issues.



I have not forgotten anything. I figured you could issue a simple google search yourself without me having to point that out. Try for example 'pv energy payback time' or 'pv life cycle analysis'. You will discover that no research will show up that supports your vague notion that pv must somehow be 'dirty'. Energy payback times of PV is around 1-3 years, depending on technology and location.

A second thing worth noting is that PV and wind are not competing technologies, they are complementary. We can use them both. The big advantage of PV is that it can be installed on rooftops, close to where the consumption is. This reduces the need for expensive and slow to build (think permitting) long distance transmission lines. And roofs are used space anyway, no need to sacrifice any land.



The PV will never pay back. It will be never PV power trade on power exchange on competitive bases. Vice versa - wind power during certain periods has been traded on purely competitive basis. If installed by business entity, which is calculating ROI or IRR (10%) generates power which is 4-10 (depending on area) times MORE EXPENSIVE than power on the power exchange therefore is heavy subsidized within Europe. Therefore PV NEVER pays back.
I heard in Check Republic have been established bulk PV power purchase price over $0.75/kWh (excluding sales, power transmission and distribution costs). Final price for power consumer would constitute around 1$/kWh. On contrary - wind power is approaching commercial power trade level $0.1/kWh. Both wind and solar do not require fuel during operation and special scarce materials therefore major factor is energy during manufacturing vs energy generated. I am reading every day greenback stuff on internet which has nothing to do with reality. But today I have been struck by surprise - this brainwashing works.


Ah continuously shifting the goal posts. First it is the 'dirty' argument, then the energy pay back, and now you start to discuss the financial pay back. Are you beginning to notice you are fighting a lost battle?

Therefore PV NEVER pays back

Can I borrow your crystal ball please? I could make millions by placing a bet on next year's winner of the Super Bowl. :)

I am flabbergasted that anyone can take such a rigid position on a technology that is developing at break neck speed.

You say that in the Check Republic (lol, probably you mean Czech Republic but never mind) they pay 75 cents per kWh. Fine, but then you proceed to take this single, isolated example as The Truth for now and all eternity. Did you know that German feed in tariffs start at 18 eurocents per kWh since 1-1-2012? Did you know that that is only a few cents above the feed-in tariff for offshore wind? Probably not, as it seems there is a lot that you don't know.


Over 90% declared that they would buy one or two family Hummer I monsters if they could earn enough to pay for the gas bill. The other 10% would buy 30 foot long limo.



Think before posting and learn to spell.


Households with modest rooftop photovoltiac panels matched to plug-in hybrids gain the means to survive an emergency grid failure. They gain a choice whether to drive or use the electricity for household purposes. Driving less leads to more routine trips that can be made without having to drive. They gain the means to monitor and conserve household electricity.

An electric utility grid gains the means to store electricity generated during overnight 'surplus' hours and increase supply during peak demand hours. Thus the grid is made smarter.

Many private utility companies are not interested in conserving electricity. They profit from keeping consumers misinformed and dependent upon their monopoly of supply. Rightwing conservatives who think they're independent are misled to oppose actual independence. Go figure.

Bob Wallace

How large a role did the Great Recession play in decreased enthusiasm for things new?

In addition to "very favorable" and "extremely favorable" did Pike also allow "favorable" as an answer? If so, would we see even large super-majorities for clean energy?


In the 1930s people liked new future projections, they had been down so long it looked like up to them.

Roger Pham

In tough economic times, it is understandable that people prefer short-term survival decisions over long-term sustainability. When faced with job insecurity and unemployment, low-cost energy becomes more important than clean energy.
However, renewable energy is getting to be cheaper and cheaper and is gaining momentum. Renewable energy technology is developing at a rapid speed.

Environmental sustainability depends on social stability, including adequate employment rates. On the other hand, large-scale deployment of renewable energy will help solve long-term local unemployment problem everywhere. Energy security provided by home-grown renewable energy collectors will help reduce social tension and international conflicts. I sure hope that the public will see this vital inter-relationship.


I would start with synthetic gasoline from natural gas and work in more biomass over time. Once we have a more stable and affordable energy supply, things could progress.


SJC, a hybrid-electric drivetrain achieves 25% fuel economy and 90% emission reduction before the next generation plug-in advancement. Sure, use whatever fuels are available, but use them in a Plug-in hybrid drivetrain and mileage more than triples. Or are you just another General Motors or Exxon infiltrator spouting bullshit for a paycheck?


Why do you insult? Do I have to report your behavior or will you be rational?


It amazes me that Coal was not brought into this discussion. Lots of gasoline and diesel locked up in Coal. We just need to find a way to do a low pollution way of converting it and our transportation energy supplies problem is solved for the next hundred years.


The world flares enough natural gas to power Germany, about $30 billion of it is just burned off each year. If that we converted to gasoline, we would have enough to power half of the cars in the U.S.


Rightwing BS.


Excuse me? Would you care to clarify that, or is that another insult? Don't be a coward, speak plainly.


Does this represent a continued resistance to change, plain ignorance or a twisted type of on-going American dream world?

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