Green Energy Perceptions and Usage

New survey: U.S. enthusiasm for 'green' energy varies, and few are willing to pay a premium for it

When it comes to green energy, Americans generally fall into one of four categories: Evangelists, Promoters, Passives or Detractors.

Stevens professor and energy expert Philip Odonkor
Philip Odonkor

No matter our category or view of the long-term benefits of green energy, however, few are willing to pay much more to take advantage of it.

These findings and more appear in the Stevens TechPulse Report: Green Energy Perceptions and Usage, a new national poll of 2,210 adults conducted on behalf of Stevens Institute of Technology by Morning Consult examining Americans’ views on a wide range of green energy-related issues. Read the news release.

"Green energy is at the heart of America’s energy transition," said Philip Odonkor, an assistant professor in the School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens who studies sustainable energy, smart cities and data-driven technologies. "This survey highlights the tremendous progress made in sparking public interest, but also exposes the bigger challenge that lies ahead — converting that momentum into tangible action."

From 'evangelists' to 'detractors,' green-energy views vary

According to the new survey, there is no national consensus on green-energy adoption. Respondents tended to align with one of four categories in a spectrum of 'very likely' to 'very unlikely' to seek green-energy technologies for personal use.

Self-reported data revealed the demographics most closely associated with each category:

Evangelists (26%)

  • Very likely to seek out green energy technologies for personal use
  • Evangelists skew male, younger; most likely to be urban, most educated

Promoters (30%)

  • Somewhat likely to seek out green energy technologies for personal use
  • Promoters skew female, urban/suburban and college-educated

Passives (27%)

  • Neutral on seeking out green energy technologies for personal use
  • Passives skew female, slightly older, suburban or rural, and less educated

Detractors (10%)

  • Unlikely to seek out green energy technologies for personal use
  • Detractors skew male; most likely to be older, live in rural areas, and be least educated

Don’t know/no opinion (7%)

Price remains top of mind

As for the question of whether (and how much more) people would pay to use green energy, more than half of the adults surveyed (52%) say the long-term benefits of green energy outweigh the cost. Yet only one-third (36%) of respondents say they’re willing to pay more for green energy.

Adults overall say they would be willing to pay 10% more per month in utility bills for green energy-related consumption. Among Evangelists, this amount rose to 19% more, with Promoters willing to pay 12% more, Passives 9% more and Detractors just 1% more.

Preparing students for 'green' careers

Higher education also plays a role in green-energy research, development and career preparation.

Green careers, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, are “any occupation that is affected by activities such as conserving energy, development alternative energy, reducing pollution, or recycling.”

Asked how important it is for universities and colleges to offer education that prepares students for green careers, three in four adults (73%) say it’s important, while only 4% say it’s not important. Nearly all Evangelists (97%) feel it’s important, closely followed by 90% of Promoters and a solid majority of Passives (60%). Only 36% of Detractors, however, feel higher education has a role.

"It is clear that universities such as Stevens Institute of Technology must play a critical role in ... advanc[ing] the field."

"This survey illustrates the challenges our society faces in building consensus around policies, funding models and increasing adoption of sustainable energy solutions for the future," said Nariman Farvardin, president of Stevens Institute of Technology.

"It is also abundantly clear that universities such as Stevens Institute of Technology must play a critical role in increasing public awareness, educating the future energy workforce and contributing its R&D capacity to advance the field."

Learn More