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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.



Most people don't even know what a "smart grid" is, but if you ask them their opinion, they will give one.

To me it is an indication of how willing people are to give uninformed opinions, which can change with the next news story or rumor.


Any survey done in a country where 4 out of 10 reject the idea of evolution has to be taken with grain of salt.


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