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Support for clean energy driven by economics — report

Demand for clean energy is no longer a political issue — it’s an economic one.

That’s the conclusion drawn by Deloitte in its annual report on global energy trends.

The report, which was released yesterday, found increased support for renewable energy last year among both consumers and businesses. And it attributed this support to declining costs across the renewables sector, making it a more cost-competitive and attractive option.

“We’re at a point where the train has left the station in terms of interest in renewables,” said Marlene Motyka, lead author of the report and U.S. and global renewable energy leader and principal at Deloitte. “It really makes economic sense.”

The report relied on online surveys of more than 1,500 consumers and more than 700 people responsible for energy management practices at their company. Among consumers, a majority said they think using clean energy sources is the most important energy issue of our time.

In particular, 37 percent of consumers said they view “increasing the use of solar power” as the top issue. And 25 percent of consumers prioritized increasing the use of wind power.
Among respondents who were eligible for solar, 44 percent said they were extremely or very interested in installing solar panels on their primary residences if they could do so through a financing or leasing arrangement with no out-of-pocket expense. That figure jumped to 64 percent for millennial respondents.

These consumer preferences can’t solely be chalked up to a desire to help the environment. They can also be attributed to a desire to save money.

When asked what drove their interest in installing solar panels, 79 percent of consumers selected the answer “I can save on my electricity bills by reducing the amount of electricity I buy.” This compares with 66 percent of consumers who selected the statement “Solar power is clean and does not contribute to climate change.”
“I think our survey definitely shows that climate change and green energy have moved beyond politics,” Motyka said. “On the consumer side, more of them have the opportunity to utilize residential solar because it’s now competitive. Financing is being offered, and when they look at what they’re getting with the pricing, it’s at a discount compared with what they’re getting from their utility.”
The report also found that consumer preferences are having an impact on business strategies. Among people responsible for energy management practices at their company, 61 percent said customers are demanding that their company procure a certain percentage of its electricity demand from renewables.
Independent of consumers, businesses were also taking steps to generate their own power. Six in 10 businesses now have some form of on-site electricity generation, up from 35 percent five years ago. And 35 percent said they have considered implementing or participating in a microgrid.
“When you think about why businesses want to have on-site electricity generation, it makes sense,” Motyka said. “They want price certainty. They want resilience. And in some cases, it is also a cost savings to them and they meet their sustainability goal. So it really helps them check a lot of boxes.”
Finally, both consumers and businesses expressed strong support for energy storage. Forty-five percent of consumers said they would be more interested in installing solar panels if they could combine them with a home battery storage unit.
Nearly half of business respondents said they were working to procure more electricity from renewables. Of the 39 percent who were not working to procure more renewable electricity, 58 percent said combining renewables with battery storage could motivate them to do more.

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