US Consumer Support for Renewables – Highest Level Since 2010

by Silvio Marcacci.

Consumer approval of clean energy 2013 chart via Navigant Research
Consumer approval of clean energy 2013 chart via Navigant Research

Consumer attitudes toward clean energy technologies in America rebounded strongly in 2013 to reach their highest levels since 2010, countering several years of declines in favorability ratings between 2009-2012.

This good news comes from Navigant Research’s 2013 Energy and Environment Consumer Survey, and indicates clean tech may finally be established as a preferred option for consumers despite high-profile conservative attacks.

Overall support for clean energy swung from 2012’s low of 44% to a 51% average favorability in 2013. In fact, out of ten technologies ranging from clean energy to clean transportation to energy efficiency, only one – nuclear power – declined in popularity over the past year.

Consumer support for clean energy 2009-2013 chart via Navigant Research
Consumer support for clean energy 2009-2013 chart via Navigant Research

This Just In – Renewables Rule

Navigant’s survey is the latest in an annual series dating back to 2009, and surveyed over 1,000 people in representative samples across the U.S. during the fourth quarter of 2013. Respondents were asked to share their feelings about each technology and their replies were then compared to previous years to show trends.

Without a doubt, this year’s headline simply reads: renewables rule, especially solar. 79% of respondents favored solar energy, a 10% surge compared to 2012 and just under the all-time high of 81% in 2009. Solar energy also had the lowest unfavorable rating at 6% and the highest “very favorable” rating at 50% – not a surprise if you consider 2013’s record-setting pace for new US solar installations.

Wind energy ranked second overall out of all surveyed technologies, coming in just behind solar in overall favorability (72%), “very favorable” (42%), and unfavorable (7%), despite the controversy over renewing the Production Tax Credit. When combined, these two renewable energy technologies appear to have cemented themselves among Americans. “Consumers consider these renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future,” says the survey’s white paper.

Clean Transportation Pulls Ahead

But positive attitudes toward clean energy aren’t just limited to our power sockets – they also extend to our highways and byways. Clean transportation options pulled ahead of the pack in 2013, led by hybrid and electric vehicles.

Hybrid vehicles ranked third in overall favorability with 67% of consumers supporting them, up an incredible 13% from 2012, and third lowest with just an 8% unfavorable response rate. Interestingly, the bulk of unfavorable responses for hybrids came from those with a high school degree or lower education.

While electric vehicles came in just behind hybrids at 61% favorability, they jumped 12% from just a 49% approval rate in just one year, hinting the increasing number of EVs on US roads could be making them more attractive to drivers.

Lack Of Understanding = Lack Of Support

Ironically, the same trend of consumers equating more solar panels and more EVs on the road to higher approval ratings may be the reason smart grid and green building concepts continued to rank poorly.

The concept of a smart grid was viewed favorably by just 37% of respondents, but unfavorably by just 6% of consumers – the same negative rank as solar energy. 57% of consumers said they either didn’t have an opinion or were neutral on smart grid technology, meaning the potential for support exists but educational efforts are lagging by utilities.

Smart meters in particular also showed the same trend as smart grid in general, with 43% viewing them favorable and 10% viewing them unfavorable but 47% saying they were neutral or unfamiliar with the technology.

Consumer awareness of LEED certification chart via Navigant Research
Consumer awareness of LEED certification chart via Navigant Research

This trend was most apparent, however, when it came to LEED certification. A massive 72% of all respondents said they were either unfamiliar (41%) or had no opinion (32%) of green building. While this is somewhat surprising considering green buildings could be half of all US construction by 2016, the potential is still bright considering those who knew about LEED supported it at a 4-to-1 ratio.

Seeing Is Believing For Clean Energy

Navigant’s annual survey generates multiple possibilities in the evolution of consumer support for clean energy technologies, but the underlying story is clear: When people learn about clean tech by seeing it in their everyday lives, they support it in large numbers.

That’s a powerful message to throw back at fossil fuel proponents or poorly informed media reports that argue support for clean energy is a mistake, and is a good omen for our potential to decarbonize and build a sustainable future.

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This article, US Consumer Support For Clean Energy At Highest Level Since 2010, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Unlike Fossil Fuel, US Renewable Energy Subsidy Expires Jan 1

by Guest Contributor Kevin Haley.

 Check out this BLS chart of oil and gas jobs.
Check out this BLS chart of oil and gas jobs.

Originally published by the American Council On Renewable Energy

Three simple reasons why bashing the tax code won’t slow the roll of renewable energy.

Nothing says “December in D.C.” like the mad dash to haggle over end-of-year tax extenders – and the energy sectors are no exception. Since this ritual opens the door to plenty of misinformation and special interest lobbying from renewable energy opponents, this post will help hammer out the facts.

The end of 2013, just like the end of 2012, 2008, 2005, 2003 and many years prior, brings with it the expiration of the Production Tax Credit for Renewable Energy (PTC).

Thanks to a long history of federal support, the incumbent fossil fuel sectors enjoy solid business certainty provided by permanent, embedded federal tax breaks.

Renewable energy, however, being the (relatively) new kid on the block, does not have this luxury.

In early December, the fossil fuel-aligned and notoriously anti-PTC Institute for Energy Research released a report on the state-by-state impacts of the PTC. IER used state-level tax data to attempt to “calculate the net impact of federal wind subsidies on each state.” By creating this so-called “proxy PTC payment” metric, IER tries to make the case that wind-heavy states are effectively “subsidizing” other states that incorporate fewer wind resources into their power mix.

Now, it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to see why this type of analysis is flawed. By IER’s logic, the “domestic manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas,” for example, would be unfairly slanted in favor of O&G-producing states – with the likes of Maryland, Nevada and Missouri “subsidizing” states like Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The fact is, energy tax credits, the PTC included, are intended to support the energy industries, not the actual states themselves.

The glaring flaws in tax credit attacks don’t stop there either. Here are the top three reasons why the IER, the AEA and other anti-PTC opponents are getting their facts backwards on tax policy for renewable energy:

1) The PTC actually produces significant state-level economic benefits.

Many opponents of the PTC and other federal incentives for renewable energy will rarely admit that these incentives spur major economic growth in the states. Take Michigan, one of IER’s top “loser” states: Michigan is about to join the elite “Gigawatt Club,” for wind as recently highlighted by CBS Detroit. The PTC helped build a regional wind industry in Michigan that’s now comprised of over 40 local businesses and 3,000+ in-state jobs. IER calls Michigan a “payer” state because they don’t currently have as much wind energy production (therefore taking lesser advantage of the PTC) than states like Oklahoma or Texas. But a November report from the Michigan Public Service Commissioner notes that, as costs of wind power have come down dramatically and capacity has doubled, Michigan would be able to “meet increased Renewable Portfolio Standard targets of as much as 30% (or perhaps higher) from resources located within the State.”

Clearly, IER and the anti-renewable energy incentives crowd are being wilfully ignorant by not discussing these obvious benefits. Perhaps it’s understandable – after all, that’s how lobbying works – but it doesn’t make it truthful. At the end of the day, the PTC has very helpfully aided a promising American industry that creates jobs, local benefits and lowers consumer costs.

2) After 100+ years, energy tax policy shouldn’t be much of a debate at this point.

Another common oversight is the larger role of tax policy as it relates to energy production. It’s a well-known fact that fossil fuel procurement has been subsidized since at least the early 1900s. How often, for example, do we hear about the 12 special provisions of the U.S. tax code that subsidizes fossil fuel extraction? Harvard Professor Joseph Aldy highlights one such tax subsidy enjoyed by the oil and gas industry:

The domestic manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas is a version of a broader tax deduction that is intended to support domestic manufacturing activities. Of course, oil and gas production are not manufacturing activities, and one cannot relocate a hydrocarbon field to another country as one could with a manufacturing facility.

Altogether, these tax subsidies for oil and gas production add up to over $41 billion over the next 10 years! But because many of the major tax preferences are permanently ingrained into the tax code (i.e. they don’t expire like the PTC), they don’t undergo the same scrutiny and condemnation as the PTC, ITC and other renewable energy tax preferences that are not permanent. The on-again-off-again nature of the PTC also severely undermines business certainty, providing yet another advantage to competing energy sectors.

One can easily see that, by calling for an end to renewable energy tax benefits without also calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, IER and other anti-renewable energy activists are essentially guilty of the same sin they so often rail against: Picking Winners and Losers.

3) The PTC’s distributional effect is the rule – not the exception – when it comes to targeted tax code applications.

Finally – and this is perhaps most relevant to the most recent IER report – there’s no such thing as a tax preference that does not inherently incur some “distributional impacts.” Remember those 12 oil and gas tax subsidies?

If that doesn’t look like very even distribution of benefits, it’s because, well, it’s not. When tax breaks are applied to certain sectors (say, wind energy, or oil and gas production), the regions with concentrations of those sectors are going to benefit greater than other regions without said production.

HaleyBlogPost22
Now let’s look at the EIA data mentioned at the beginning of this post. Crude oil production chart. (h/t to ThinkProgress)

The economic “analysis” is straightforward – we can easily see that, according to IER’s analysis, there are 20 “loser” states right off the bat, as they produce no crude oil. They are the “payers”, according to IER’s analysis, and would be on the hook for a large chunk of the $40 billion of taxpayer subsidies paid out to oil and gas companies.

The absurdity of IER’s report is obvious – all we’ve learned is that states with more industry benefit more greatly than other states from targeted tax preferences than states with less industry. This has nothing to do with the PTC – it’s just how tax preferences work.

Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that so much debunking has to take place in the energy space. In Washington, it’s often easy to fall into a pattern of buzzwords, lobbying tactics and spin. But ACORE is a business-focused organization and as a result, we have hundreds of successful renewable energy businesses who would be all too happy to tell you the real story behind the renewable energy industry.

Public policy has always been and probably will continue to be an important driver of our nation’s energy infrastructure. Letting some sectors in while shutting others out is neither smart nor fair. At the end of the day, every state can truly benefit from a strong, all-American renewable energy industry.

This article, Understanding The Facts Of The Renewable Energy PTC, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Important Media Group
Important Media Group

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀