Steve Leone, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
November 01, 2011 | 10 Comments
In a time of tense political debate — often focused on the American solar industry — a new survey may help steer the conversation away from legislators and toward consumers.
According to a survey conducted by independent polling firm Kelton Research, nine out of 10 Americans support the use and development of solar technology. Perhaps more telling considering the political climate is that eight out of 10 respondents indicated that the federal government should support solar manufacturing in the U.S. and should give federal subsidies for solar energy.
The broad support for solar seems to cut through party lines. In some cases, the middle of the political spectrum is where the broadest support can be found, a finding that has huge political implications as America heads into its primary and general elections over the next 12 months.
The solar industry is certain to use the results to bolster its case that Congress should extend the wildly popular Section 1603 grant in-lieu of an existing tax credit as a way to both create jobs and continue the expansion of solar.
While the survey’s findings have been consistent over each of the past four years, this year’s survey had the potential to reflect consumer backlash stemming from the Solyndra investigation. That, clearly, was not the case. The SCHOTT Solar Barometer Survey polled 1,000 Americans via an email invitation and online survey between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. The Solyndra news broke on Aug. 31 and the criticism of the Department of Energy was perhaps at its highest the weekend of Sept. 30 when the program reached its deadline to approve loan guarantees.
Below are the six questions asked in the survey, followed by a breakdown of the responses.
If you were in charge of U.S. energy policy and could choose to provide financial support in one of the following energy sources during your term in office, which would you choose?
Thirty-nine percent chose solar, compared to 21 percent for natural gas, 12 percent for wind, 9 percent for nuclear and 3 percent for coal. Among Independents, solar is more than twice as popular than any other energy source (43 percent to 20 percent for natural gas).
How important do you think it is for the U.S. to develop and use solar power?
Nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.” Ninety percent of Independents, 80 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats agree with this statement.
How important do you think it is for the federal government to support U.S. solar manufacturing right now?
Eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.” A majority of Independent voters (51 percent) think it is “extremely important.”
Would you be more, less or about as likely to buy a product that you knew was made using solar energy?
A majority of Americans (51 percent) would be more likely to buy solar products. Sixty-one percent of consumers in the key age demographic of 18 to 44 years old would be more likely.
Which of the following best describes the biggest concern you would have with choosing solar energy?
Cost was the most common concern (48 percent), followed by reliability (25 percent), uncertainty about the benefits (nine percent) and aesthetics (three percent).
The federal government currently gives subsidies, such as federal tax credits and grants, to traditional sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas and coal. How likely would you be to support similar subsidies for solar energy?
More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) would be “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to support federal investments in solar. Seventy-two percent of Republicans support federal investments, as well as 87 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Independents.
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