Renewable energy awareness grows, consumers don't know homes produce greenhouse gases

More People Know About Renewable Energy, But Still Think Tailpipes are No. 1 Cause of Global Warming

October 28, 2008 |

While more consumers are becoming knowledgeable about renewable energy, one-third erroneously think cars and trucks are the No. 1 cause of global warming, while only four percent cite the actual primary culprit of greenhouse emissions: coal-fired electric plants.

     So reports Shelton Group’s fourth annual Energy Pulse study, which has tracked consumer energy use and conservation attitudes and behaviors since 2005. 

     Because electricity generation differs by region, Energy Pulse asked two questions to determine how consumers think their electricity is generated. 

     While answers generally reflected regional reality (nuclear is more dominant in the Northeast, for example, while hydroelectric is more prevalent in the West), the No. 1 answer was “don’t know” (34 percent), with people in the South responding with a higher degree of inaccuracy (23 percent citing “hydro” and only 19 percent citing “coal-fired plants”).  While only 3 percent of electricity in the South comes from hydro a greater percentage – 53 to 63 percent – comes from burning coal. (Source: EIA 2007 Electrify Generation by Source by Region)

     Fewer consumers in 2008 than in 2007 accurately responded when asked, “How is most electricity generated nationally?” with 30 percent citing “burning coal,” as opposed to 33 percent in 2007.  And again, 31 percent said “don’t know” to this question.

     Knowledge continues to rise about renewable energy.  In 2005, only 20 percent of consumers could name one source of renewable energy unaided.  In 2007, 48 percent could, and in 2008, accurate responses rose to 59 percent.  Recall of wind again increased, from 36 percent in 2007 to 43 percent in 2008, edging out solar by two percent.

     When it comes to saving energy dollars in the home, consumers were relatively accurate about the top ways that most homes can curb energy use. When asked which activities or purchases would result in the greatest reduction in their energy bill, respondents' top three answers included: 1) Install energy-efficient windows (15.5 percent) 2) Install a higher efficiency heating or cooling system (14 percent) and 3) Change habits at home to save energy (14 percent).  However, they do not prioritize based on short-term return on investment.  For example, ENERGY STAR® reports that replacing single pane windows could save 19 percent, but likely costs thousands of dollars.  On the other hand, installing a programmable thermostat could save 10 percent and costs on average $59.  

     Energy Pulse 2008®, by Shelton Group, was fielded to 504 respondents by telephone in September 2008 and has a +/- 4.37 percent margin of error, based on the total number of U.S. households.

Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Shelton Group is an advertising agency entirely focused on energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.  Founded more than 17 years ago by CEO Suzanne Shelton, Shelton Group uniquely understands the consumer mindset as it relates to energy, energy efficiency, conservation and green marketing – based on its portfolio that includes a multi-year range of original consumer research (Energy Pulse, Eco Pulse) and client work for such accounts as BP Solar, Andersen Windows, Vectren Energy, Knauf Insulation and the American Institute of Architects.  Energy Pulse 2008 methodology and other details available upon request. 

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