60% Of Americans Would Choose Renewable Energy Over Traditional Energy Sources
5 - Minute Read
Nov 2, 2022
The renewable energy transition is already well underway in the United States in 2022, with solar power increasingly becoming the electricity source more Americans wish to implement at home. In a recent survey of American homeowners conducted by Rocket SolarSM, 60% of respondents said they would choose solar energy over all other power sources if given the choice.
Renewables already account for 21% of the electricity generated in the U.S. energy sector, up 42% just between the years 2010 and 2020. As of 2020, solar was the third highest and fastest-growing renewable energy source in the U.S., comprising 3.3% of all electricity generation. Only wind energy (8.4%) and hydropower (7.3%) were bigger. What sets solar apart, however, is that a far bigger percentage of U.S. solar power comes from individual consumers who have installed a solar system at home.
Reasons for the growth of solar power include increased consumer education, escalating electricity prices, effects of climate change, market forces driving improved and more efficient technologies, and government tax credits which make the substantial capital outlay for installation more palatable.
It's notable that, among a list of 10 common sources of renewable and non-renewable home power, respondents’ top three preferred sources of energy of any type (solar power 59.6%, wind power 45.3%, and natural gas 36.3%) were also considered the top three greenest power sources (solar 46%, wind 28% and natural gas 6.8%).
However, there is still statistical evidence that the potential for significant cost savings on home electricity is a far stronger motivator for the adoption of solar power than any environmental concern.
Additionally, the survey suggests that Americans like the independence and control that comes from installing a solar system on their own property. When asked where they would like to get their clean, renewable energy from, nearly 48% preferred a home solar panel system compared to 28% who would rather get it from their power company.
Americans View Green Energy Differently Depending On Where They Live
For many reasons — abundant sunshine, as well as strong government incentives and regulations (particularly in California, Oregon, and Washington) among them — the Western states lead the way in both the adoption of solar power and demand for renewable electricity and clean energy sources. Nearly seven in 10 (68%) of survey respondents from the West prefer a renewable energy source over traditional fossil fuel power. Asked which form of renewables they prefer, over half (51.4%) would choose a home solar panel system. Additionally, more respondents from the West (74%) believe the U.S. needs to hasten its move to renewable energy sources, compared to any other region.
With its notoriously cold and cloudy winters, the Midwest lags other areas of the country in the adoption of solar panel systems, and yet it has the second highest desire for renewable energy, with 60.5% choosing renewable over traditional power. And while 57% of Midwesterners favor solar power as their top energy source — despite their lower rate of solar implementation — 23% favor hydroelectric power, second only to the West, where several massive dam projects produce electricity for millions. With the massive Great Lakes bordering several Midwestern states and large metropolitan areas, hydropower might have a future in the region given the success of an innovative power plant in Michigan.
In the Northeast there is a stronger push for energy from wind turbines. In fact, the Northeast is significantly more likely to believe wind is the greenest energy source (32%) than the West. Due in part to state policies that encourage small-scale wind turbines that can help power a single-family home or farm, net-metered power generation from wind power has grown faster in the Northeast than in any other region of the U.S.
Survey respondents from the South were less open to accepting renewable electricity sources than any other region. Despite abundant sunshine (which might boost interest in solar) and high summer electric bills due to air conditioning, the South had the most people, at 21%, who expressed indifference to whether their energy came from traditional or renewable sources.
Part of this may be economic. Some of the lowest per capita income states are in the region, and more respondents in the South (50%) said they would not (or, perhaps, could not) pay more for cleaner energy, such as a costly solar panel system. There are also several oil and coal producing states in the South, and suppliers of these traditional energy sources are major employers in the region. It’s likely that these economic realities led fewer people from the South (32%) to declare their belief in the need for an increase in renewable energy than any other U.S. region.
Gen Z And Millennials Leading The Push For Renewable Energy
The dynamic at work in attitudes toward renewable energy among different American generations is fascinating. It’s easy to surmise that younger people would embrace new technologies and have a more far-sighted view toward the kind of energy they would like to consume in the coming decades. An investment made in renewable energy now will be recouped in years — and should pay back for decades.
And we might assume that older people, some of whom are living on retirement savings or other fixed income, will stay traditional and have less use for renewable energy, especially if attaining it requires a significant investment.
On the other hand, many baby boomers are quite well-off and can afford an investment in solar power or other renewable energy system, while many younger Americans are just beginning to earn and save. They may have a mortgage or student debt consuming their savings. While they may want to install solar power at their home, the initial investment is too steep.
But the survey reveals that strong interest in renewable energy sources skews heavily toward the young. Of Gen Z and millennials (the youngest generations) 64% would choose renewable energy over traditional, more than the older generations. And 70% said the nation needs to increase the use of renewable energies in the future. Meanwhile, baby boomers (the oldest group surveyed) are significantly more likely (28%) to stick with traditional energy sources than either of the younger generational groups.
Asked which specific types of energy they favor, about 62% of both Gen Z/millennials and Gen X chose solar. The group most likely to stick with natural gas, however, was baby boom at 41%.
As the pace for consumer acceptance of renewable energies continues to accelerate, there are still challenges ahead for both traditional and nontraditional energy industries. First and foremost is the rising demand for electricity placed on an aging electrical grid. More people, more personal devices to be charged, and potentially millions of electric vehicles soon to be on the roads — all while government mandates for lower carbon emissions across all industries become more restrictive — will likely be a catalyst for faster advances in all renewable energies.
Rocket Solar surveyed 2,000 Americans, with an equal number of Gen Z and millennial (age 18 – 41, combined generations), Gen X (age 42 – 57), and baby boomers (age 58 – 65+). Also, an equal number of respondents from each generation in the Midwest, Northeast, South, and West regions of the U.S. by current U.S. census regions is represented. Respondents were surveyed on their current views, understanding, and perceptions of renewable and traditional energy sources. The survey was completed August 23, 2022.