Cleantech’s Nemesis: Consumer Awareness Still Lags

Ever wonder why cleantech has been slow to take off?

Ok, sure. The technology is still immature. Solar cell efficiencies are relatively low and the smart grid is, well, hardly a grid. What’s more, until now, energy has been relatively inexpensive.

But there is another big reason, in fact the big elephant in the room: consumer awareness.

Here’s a study from Deloitte that drives home the point. Despite all the discussion of global warming and the high levels of atmospheric carbon, only 55% of U.S. consumers are astute enough to worry about their carbon footprints. More than 62% say they don’t know entirely what fuels their electric companies rely on to generate electricity.

Awareness shifts with younger Generation Y consumers (ages 21 to 34). They are more inclined than their older peers to replace inefficient appliances with more modern, efficient ones, and to back the use of timer controlled household devices to better manage energy during peak use periods.

Still all is not dark and discouraging in the Deloitte study.

Oddly enough, the recession proved a useful tool for consumer energy management. Ninety percent of consumers say they are more resourceful when it comes to energy use and 68% looked to reduce their electric bills during the downturn. These steps included the obvious, easy ones of turning off lights when they were not needed and lowering thermostats in the winter and raising them in the summer. But 95% of consumers don’t intend to increase their use as the economy improves.

Also encouraging is this: about two-thirds of consumers say they would be willing to pay a surcharge for power if their electric companies invested in wind and solar. Will we ever find utilities bold enough to respond without a government mandate?


  • Possible to post a link to the study, if it’s public?

  • Like MANY “astute” thinking consumers, I don’t believe the global warming hype.

    I DO, however, strive for more economy in my life — for personal reasons, not the numb “feel-good” yank that is pushed about.

    I switch to more efficient appliances because efficiency interests me, and saving money interests me. “Carbon footprint” is crap to me.

    Show me things that are more efficient, more effective, especially more cost-effective. Don’t push pablum about “green” when the bulk of what I see is neither “green” nor practical. Solar for hot water and area heating is effective, efficient, and less expensive. Solar for electric is still behind the power-curve, is not resource-efficient, and has a miserable break-even (even with government subsidies — which we pay for ourselves).

    As a consumer, I was positive reasons to switch, not fairy tails, threats, or punishments.

  • Consumers remain unaware and misinformed about clean energy systems, and specifically about their financial rationale. Most believe clean energy technologies are immature, even though most of these technologies are 50+ years old and well developed with proven track records. It is true that they are incrementally improving every year – just like every other consumer technology.

    EnergySage ( believes clean energy systems make a great investment for home or business owners seeking to heat, cool and/or power their properties. Our research suggests clean energy systems deliver excellent financial returns, ranging from 5% to 35% a year. These returns are consistent, tax-free and guaranteed as long as long as the property needs to be heated, cooled or powered. These returns continue to increase every year as underlying fossil fuel prices rise. These returns are better than any stock or bond investment one can make.

    Additionally, our consumer research suggests 75% of respondents believe that clean energy systems are too expensive and do not offer sufficient benefits. When informed about the returns, 90% of these people say they are likely to consider buying a clean energy system for their property.

    We believe consumers are likely to embrace clean energy systems if they are presented objective information and facts. Check out for additional information.

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