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U.S. Homeowners, Especially Republicans, Want To Be Able To Choose Clean Energy

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"U.S. Homeowners, Especially Republicans, Want To Be Able To Choose Clean Energy"

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A new poll of over 1,400 U.S. homeowners concludes that homeowners want choice in how they get their power and control over who provides it.

The survey was designed to learn what homeowners know and think about clean-energy products and services, electric utilities, third-party energy service providers, and consumer choice. The interviews were conducted in January 2014 by Zogby Analytics. The poll was commissioned by Clean Edge and SolarCity.

It revealed that 88 percent of homeowners support renewable energy and that 62 percent are interested in solar for their homes. Currently, there are just 500,000 photovoltaic installations out of 75 million owner-occupied houses in the U.S.

Half of homeowners, many of whom have experienced power outages, are interested in some kind of backup power for their homes.

Lyndon Rive, CEO and co-founder of SolarCity said in a press call that while his company is working to deploy home storage systems, utilities are making it difficult.

“It’s interesting to see what utilities are doing to slow down that deployment from long inter-connection times to outrageous connection fees,” said Rive. “Once you have storage, it really gives consumers choice. ”

And consumers certainly do want choice. Sixty-nine percent of homeowners indicated that they want more choices in how their homes are powered and that utilities should not be able to get in the way of homeowners installing solar power. The last point particularly resonated with Republicans, 80 percent of whom said utilities had no business interfering with homeowners’ choices. A solid majority of homeowners (73 percent) say they would welcome an inexpensive and reliable form of energy provided by someone other than their current utility.

Utilities in Hawaii, Colorado, Arizona, and California among others, have all attempted to impose fees and taxes on solar customers.

Interestingly, while certain solar schemes may still be too costly for some homeowners, the perceived expense of solar may be an even more significant barrier. Less than half of homeowners (45 percent) believe that solar power is less expensive today than it was three years ago. The reality is that prices for solar panels have actually dropped by more than half.

“There is a massive stigma still associated with solar — that it’s just too expensive,” said Rive. “People think there’s this huge upfront investment you have to make and a long pay-back period.”

For its part, SolarCity doesn’t actually sell solar panels at all. The company installs them for free, and the homeowner just has to buy the power they produce.

Looking ahead to the kinds of clean-energy purchases homeowners are planning to make in 2014, the survey found that 31 percent of homeowners had their sights set on LED light bulbs, which have themselves dropped dramatically in price from around $30 to just $10. Smart thermostats, like Google’s recently acquired Nest, were also on the shopping list, with about 11 percent of homeowners hoping to bring one home. Double- or triple-pane windows (like those used in passive houses), hybrid cars and Energy Star-rated hot water heaters were also popular clean-energy investments consumers hoped to make.

Encouragingly, more than two-thirds of all homeowners reported that they take environmental considerations into account when making big purchases. More than half of homeowners said they were more likely to make such considerations today than three years ago.

SolarCity and Clean Edge plan to release the homeowner survey annually, with the next report scheduled for early 2015.

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