Do Consumers Support Renewable Energy Targets?

Posted to Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) in the Customer Care Group
image credit: Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC)
Nathan Shannon's picture
President & CEO, Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative

Nathan Shannon is the President and CEO of the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, whose mission is to advance consumer-friendly, consumer-safe smart energy through research, education and...

  • Member since 2015
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  • Aug 25, 2023

When President Biden announced that the United States would be rejoining the Paris Agreement in April 2021, he set a target to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

This major announcement at the federal level added to the momentum that had been building for years through state and utility renewable energy goals. In 2018, Xcel Energy’s landmark commitment to achieving 100-percent carbon-free electricity across its service territory by 2050 triggered a number of other announcements from electricity providers big and small.

Now, according to the Smart Electric Power Alliance’s Utility Carbon-Reduction Tracker, 82 percent of customer accounts in United States are served by a utility with a carbon-reduction target (or a utility owned by a parent company that has a target). In addition, 74 percent of accounts are served by a utility with a 100-percent carbon reduction goal.

On the state level, Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota, New York, California and others have been leading the way with standards to achieve 100-percent renewable energy generation. For example, Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) commits the state to 100-percent clean electricity by 2045.

While there has been undeniable progress from government at all levels and electricity providers of all types, what do American consumers know about these targets? And do they support them?

To uncover Americans’ concerns with renewable energy, their awareness and support for clean energy targets, their willingness to pay more for 100-percent renewable energy and more, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) recently conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 Americans 18 or older who are responsible for making energy-related decisions at home.

This research revealed that the vast majority of Americans are not aware of any clean energy targets set by their electricity providers or government. In fact, only 16 percent stated that they were aware of a target from either entity, and just six percent stated that they were aware of a target from their provider – despite, as noted, 82 percent of Americans being served by a utility with a carbon reduction target.

While this lack of awareness certainly points to an opportunity for more consumer education from both the government and providers, there’s still some positive news. First, younger consumers (18-34 years old) are more likely to be aware of carbon reduction targets; 22 percent are aware of a renewable energy target compared to just 14 percent of consumers over 35 years old.

Secondly, when made aware of these targets, consumers are generally very supportive. Sixty percent characterized the federal government’s “80-percent renewable energy generation by 2030” target as a step in the right direction. And when it comes to the utility’s role, almost half (48 percent) of respondents expect their utility to make it a high priority to contribute to this target. An additional 32 percent would like to see their utility make it a medium priority.

Furthermore, when asked how important it is that the United States achieves 80-percent renewable energy generation by 2030, 74 percent of all consumers stated that this was either somewhat or very important to them.

However, there are some notable discrepancies between SECC’s consumer segments.

Only 27 percent of the Comfort Seekers believe that it’s very or somewhat important. These consumers – who represent just 12 percent of the population – prioritize their own comfort and generally are not interested in energy-saving programs from their electricity providers. But, in this case, as in many others in our research, there is a considerable gap between the opinions of this segment and the other four.

For example, even with the Trusting Traditionalists, a segment that’s often overwhelmed by technology and isn’t strongly motivated by the environmental benefits of utility programs, there’s significant support for the 80-percent renewables target; 71 percent of consumers in this segment believe it’s very or somewhat important to achieve this goal.

When we look at the three remaining segments that have stronger environmental values – the Green Pioneers, Simply Sustainable and Connected Pragmatists – we see that 88, 82 and 79 percent, respectively, believe that it’s somewhat or very important the United States achieves the target of 80-percent renewable energy generation by 2030.

While there has been considerable progress in developing a cleaner energy industry in recent years, our research shows that consumers have largely been left in the dark on these efforts. However, as they are largely supportive of these goals, with the right education and outreach, many Americans are likely to be active participants in the clean energy transition.

To learn more about consumers’ understanding of and support for the transition to renewable energy, read the “Renewables: Engaging Consumers in the Clean Energy Transition” report here.

Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC)
SECC is a nonprofit organization that works to learn the wants and needs of energy consumers, encourage the sharing of best practices in consumer engagement among industry stakeholders, and educate the public about the benefits of smart energy
Cynthia Clemmons's picture
Cynthia Clemmons on Aug 25, 2023

Really interesting statistics. Thank you! I will be sharing this with my communications team. Were you able to draw conclusions from the data that showed if political leanings played a role in the responses?

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Aug 28, 2023

Nice report Nsrhan. It looks likeca lot of education still needs to be done with consumers. I would like to see how many have added solar to their homes and are saving money each month as well as helping the environment. 

Yooper Logic's picture
Yooper Logic on Aug 29, 2023

Curious how folks in Maui would answer this survey? 



As prices go up, reliability suffers, huge amounts of land are consumed and lives are lost. One would imagine that these events would substantially shift survey responses. 

In addition, much / most of the renewable "resources" (equipment, rare earth metals, labor) are sourced outside of the US, so no real "positive" for the US economy and a huge "negative" with respect to national security and availability. 

If really curious, listen in to a State PUC hearing where an electric utility is looking to increase rates due to the cost of CO2 reductions; those customers are not happy.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Aug 29, 2023

Would be a proper survey if consumers were asked how much they are willing to pay for green energy goals. That would “all-in” costs for all impacts on your wallet, not just your electric bill. California could provide actual data.

More pointedly, provide a simple graph of expected increased net costs versus climate goal. I am quite certain that will never happen because of government attempts to hide the severe economic destruction caused by mindlessly pursuing green energy goals that are driven by greed, as opposed to common sense.

Nathan Shannon's picture
Thank Nathan for the Post!
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