Snow and ice storms in the southern US as well as wildfires and blackouts in the West have brought energy consumption, reliability, and resourcing to the forefront. According to the article A Major Report Warns Climate Change Is Accelerating And Humans Must Cut Emissions Now, human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases are the overwhelming cause of the climate crisis.

For some time, utilities have been working on creating a reliable and renewably sourced infrastructure to reduce their carbon footprint and better serve their customers. But only recently are US residents understanding the urgency of the challenge and speaking up. In our report How do blackouts affect consumers’ attitudes toward renewables?, we discuss trends related to grid reliability and the effect on renewable-energy opinions. Customers are also curious about where their money is going and how grid investments will affect them personally, a topic we explored in our report How to communicate about grid improvements and investments. Insights like these can help you better understand your customers and their perceptions so you can communicate with them in ways that resonate.

So how do your customers feel about renewable energy? To answer this question, we looked at data from the Claritas Energy Behavior Track, an annual online survey conducted in partnership with E Source of about 32,000 residential customers in the US on a variety of energy-related topics. This data powers the E Source US Residential Customer Insights Center, an easy-to-use online analysis tool that includes a full profile of demographic information (such as gender and age) and household characteristics (such as size of home). It allows utilities to gather information about their residential customers’ energy-usage behaviors and attitudes around energy consumption.

Perceptions of renewable energy

Respondents to our survey have a positive impression of clean energy and support the transition to renewable energy by their utility (figure 1). At least one-third of US respondents strongly agreed (rating a 9 or 10 out of 10) that:

  • Renewable energy can replace fossil fuels
  • Their utility should source more renewable energy
  • Solar power will be an important source of electricity in the US in the future

Figure 1: Consumer opinions about renewable energy

Around 37% of US respondents strongly agree that energy generated from renewable energy resources can replace the use of fossil fuels. About 38% of US respondents agree that more of their electric utility’s electricity supply should come from renewable energy resources. And almost half of US respondents say they agree that solar power will be an important source of electricity in the future.

Renewable energy should replace fossil fuels

Stacked bar chart (copyright E Source, using 2021 data from the US Residential Customer Insights Center; n = 32,366) showing the percentage of respondents who indicated the extent to which they agree or disagree with the statement 'Energy generated from renewable energy resources (solar, wind) can replace the use of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal). On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means strongly disagree and 10 means strongly agree, 37% gave a 9 or 10, 23% gave a 7 or 8, 30% gave a 1 to 6, and 10% said don't know.

Utilities should source more renewable energy

Stacked bar chart (copyright E Source, using 2021 data from the US Residential Customer Insights Center; n = 32,366) showing the percentage of respondents who indicated the extent to which they agree or disagree with the statement 'More of my electric utility's electricity supply should come from renewable energy resources.' On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means strongly disagree and 10 means strongly agree, 38% gave a 9 or 10, 25% gave a 7 or 8, 26% gave a 1 to 6, and 11% said don't know.

Solar will be important in the future

Stacked bar chart (copyright E Source, using 2021 data from the US Residential Customer Insights Center; n = 32,366) showing the percentage of respondents who indicated the extent to which they agree or disagree with the statement 'Solar power will be an important source of electricity in the US in the future.' On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means strongly disagree and 10 means strongly agree, 44% gave a 9 or 10, 24% gave a 7 or 8, 23% gave a 1 to 6, and 9% said don't know.

Investing in a renewable future

While customers support utilities’ shift to renewable energy, they don’t believe their utility is making the right infrastructure upgrades to support a better, cleaner future. And many customers aren’t willing to pay more to support this transition (figure 2).

Figure 2: Consumer support for renewable energy

Only 23% of US respondents agree that their utility is making the right upgrades to infrastructure for a better future and only 22% say they would pay more each month to support a transition to clean, renewable energy.
Bar chart (copyright E Source, using data from the 2021 Claritas Energy Behavior Track survey, n = 32,366) showing the percentage of respondents who selected 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means strongly disagree and 10 means strongly agree, on 10 opinion statements. 22% gave a 9 or 10 for 'I would pay 10% more each month to support a transition 
to clean, renewable energy.' 23% for 'My utility is making the right upgrades to infrastructure for a better future.' 25% for 'My energy provider supports the use of renewable energy by its customers.' 28% for 'Natural gas technologies provide a pathway to reducing emissions while maintaining affordability and reliability.' 35% for 'Programs designed to move away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy will create new jobs and improve the economy.' 37% for 'Energy generated from renewable energy resources should replace the use of fossil fuels.' 38% for 'More of my electric utility’s electricity supply should come from renewable energy resources.' 39% for 'Carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) should be regulated as a pollutant and kept under certain limits in the US.' 44% for 'Solar power will be an important source of electricity in the US in the future.' and 45% for 'Energy-efficient vehicle or solar panel purchases should receive tax rebates.

Contributing Authors

Senior analyst, Market Research

Paige Martin brings the voice of the customer and the voice of the utility to in-house research experts and E Source members. Her areas of...