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U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy: A National Survey

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, April 13th, 2015


How important is renewable energy to America's energy future?

Executive Summary

In our second annual survey of U.S. homeowner purchasing trends and attitudes, we find that clean-energy products and services – including solar PV, utility-scale renewables, hybrid electric vehicles, and green buildings – continue to experience double-digit compound annual growth rates (CAGRs). Sustained double-digit growth rates for more than a decade reflect the long-term nature of this current shift to more efficient, cleaner, and environmentally friendly products and services. But don’t be mistaken; as our research clearly points out, it is cost savings, much more than environmental factors, that are driving this monumental shift. Our annual survey of U.S. homeowners provides a deeper view into what’s motivating these consumers, and looks at the often-nuanced reasons behind this notable transition.

To better understand this rapidly developing market, and the consumers behind it, SolarCity and Clean Edge commissioned a survey of U.S. homeowners by polling firm Zogby Analytics. Now in its second year, the annual survey focused on U.S. homeowners’ choices and attitudes towards a range of energy technologies. 1,400 respondents were randomly selected to answer questions about renewables, energy efficiency, clean transportation, green investing, conventional energy sources, utilities, and other related topics. The purpose of the survey was to learn what homeowners know and think about clean-energy products and services and to gain insights into homeowners’ purchasing decisions and attitudes.

All online surveys were completed between January 20 and January 22, 2015. Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error for the survey of 1,400 homeowners is +/- 2.7 percentage points.

Key findings from the 2015 U.S. Homeowner Survey include:

Americans Overwhelmingly Choose Solar and Wind Over Natural Gas, Nuclear, and Coal

  • Half of all homeowners selected solar power as the most important energy source for America’s future, and solar is the top choice across all major demographics (such as Republican, Democratic, Liberal, Conservative, North, and South).
  • Wind power ranked a strong second with support of 42% of homeowners, followed by natural gas (33%) and energy efficiency (25%).
  • Ranking in the middle of the pack were oil (17%), hydroelectric power (17%), waste to energy (16%), and nuclear power (14%). At the bottom were geothermal power (10%), coal (8%), and biofuels/biomass (7%).
  • While solar was supported across all age groups, both natural gas and nuclear declined significantly with younger respondents. Natural gas was supported by those over 70 (43%) but dropped down significantly to 27% for those aged 18-24. Nuclear was supported by those over 70 (24%) but dropped precipitously to 8% for ages 25- 34 and to just 1% for ages 18-24.

More than Half of Investors Consider the Social and Environmental Impacts of their Investments

  • When making investment decisions, a majority of homeowners say that they consider the social/environmental impact of their investment (52%) and generally expressed an interest in “impact investments,” which offer social and environmental benefits.
  • Three quarters (74%) said that such investments would be compelling if they offered a “potentially higher return than other options” and 61% said such investments would be compelling if they offered “a return that is at least as good as other options.”
  • Profits still trump sustainability however. Interest drops significantly, to just 22%, when such investments offer “a slightly lower return than other options.”
  • The primary reasons given for making a personal investment with social/ environmental benefits were (in order): the potential to earn higher returns than those provided by savings/CD accounts (54%); supporting the growth of American jobs (12%); and helping people switch to solar power and creating a cleaner, more sustainable future (11%).

Homeowners Back Federal Support of Clean Energy and Oppose Utility-Driven Roadblocks

  • Homeowners overwhelmingly support the continuation of federal tax incentives that support the growth of the solar and wind industries (74%). Support is high across all major party affiliations, 82% for Democrats, 67% for Republicans and 72% for Independents.
  • Respondents believe that utilities should not block the expansion of solar power. A strong majority (61%) oppose any utility effort to impose a rooftop solar fee for panels that are connected to the grid, while just 24% support such fees. Such opposition is stronger among rural dwellers and Republicans than city residents and Democrats.

In the following report, SolarCity and Clean Edge delve into these findings, reporting on and analyzing our second annual homeowners’ survey. The report also includes a look at the high growth of clean-energy technologies over the past 11 years and a discussion of recent consumer adoption trends.

SolarCity and Clean Edge plan to release the homeowner survey annually, with the next report scheduled for early 2016.

Which energy sources do you believe are most important to America's energy future? (Pick up to three)


Download full version (PDF): U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy

About Clean Edge
Clean Edge, Inc., founded in 2000, is the world’s first research and advisory firm devoted to the clean-tech sector. For more than a decade, the firm has delivered timely data, expert analysis, and comprehensive insights to key industry stakeholders. Clean Edge, with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, offers an unparalleled suite of index, benchmarking, and advisory services.

About SolarCity
SolarCity was started by two determined brothers with a better way to deliver clean, more affordable energy. Founded in 2006, SolarCity has since grown to become America’s largest solar provider with more than 6,000 employees. We’re just getting started.

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One Response to “U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy: A National Survey”

  1. Jery Schneider says:

    It would be helpful to know how the “solar” questions were formulated. If one compares large solar arrays with lots of small ones (rooftop) you get very different answers to the benefit-cost question – also one that has to do with who owns/controls the arrays and the energy produced. More critical is whether the respondents had any knowledge about the attributes of 4th generation nuclear plants now being developed around the world. I suspect they didn’t know anything about them. Examples are Transatomic, Terra Power and Martingale, Inc. in the USA.
    Without knowing about the attributes of these technologies, your results are worthless as these 4th generation reactors are-game changers. And, the gap created by closing coal plants, oil and gas generators and old nuclear plants is far to large to be filled without significant investments in 4th generation nuclear reactors.

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