Consumer confidence slipping in solar, wind

The bloom is sliding off the rose of renewables. Electric and hybrid vehicles losing favor too. What about nuclear?
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor on
Wilting. Like this rose, solar and wind energy do not look as flowery as they used to in the eyes of U.S. consumers.

It seems that the bloom is sliding off the rose of certain environmental technologies like renewable energy and hybrid and electric vehicles.

U.S. consumers have steadily lost confidence in solar and wind power for three years, although their fondness for the technologies is still relatively high, according to a survey by Chicago-based Navigant Research.

"Favorable impressions" of solar fell from 77 percent in 2011 to 69 percent in 2012, while wind slipped to the same level, from 71 percent. Solar and wind registered 81 percent and 79 percent approvals in 2009 (see chart below).

In a press release, Navigant managing director Clint Wheelock notes:

“Since 2009, there have been steady declines in favorability for some clean energy concepts, particularly the areas that have traditionally enjoyed strong consumer support such as solar energy, wind energy, hybrid vehicles, and electric cars. Overall, support for clean energy concepts in our tracking survey held fairly steady from 2011 to 2012, but the decline for solar energy in particular was significant.”

The fall in approval of hybrid vehicles wasn't far behind solar's, as it tumbled from 61 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2012, noticeably below its 2009 level of 70 percent. Electric vehicles dropped to 49 percent last year from 55 percent in 2011, continuing its skid from 62 percent approval in 2009.

By contrast, "favorable" impressions of nuclear energy actually nudged up last year to 41 percent from 40 percent in 2011, although nuclear remained well behind renewables. It's also below its 2009 52 percent favorability rating.

But the percentage of respondents who viewed nuclear "unfavorably" dipped to 20 percent from 23 percent in 2011. Unfavorable ratings of solar and wind edged up.

The survey by Navigant's Pike Research division also examines impressions of a number of other technologies such as "clean coal," biofuels, smart meters, the smart grid, and cap and trade. For a copy of the results click here (registration may be necessary). Here's one of its key charts:

Favorable Impressions of Energy and Environmental Concepts, U.S. 2009-12

Photo from Turelio via Wikimedia. Chart from Navigant's Pike Research division.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards