Evolution or revolution? Clean energy movement is expanding

The Great Recession left the economy in shambles and turned lives upside down, but it forced more people to  cut spending and energy and, in some ways, was a good thing, according to a survey of more than 2,800 consumers and business people by Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.

The 2012 survey revealed people and businesses are more aware of the cost-cutting potential of energy efficiency, that younger adults have strong appetites for clean technology and that businesses are setting more aggressive energy goals - in large part because their customers demand it.

"Customers care, so companies do too," the report states.

Authors noted that near two-thirds of businesses surveyed said their customers want more environmentally considerate solutions, up from 49 percent only a year ago. Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of those businesses actively promote their green campaigns.

The surveys found that businesses continue to invest in energy efficiency even as finding capital becomes more challenging, and as a majority of them acknowledge it is hard to track available financial and tax incentives. The companies are motivated by the strong cost savings and competitive edge associated with energy efficiency, but public good - "it's the right thing to do" - also is a catalyst.

Employers also are becoming more interested in carbon emissions. Almost eight in 10 surveyed said cost of carbon should be factored into use of traditional energy sources, and 72 percent say they plan to acknowledge it on their balance sheets - up from 58 percent a year ago. However, they also overwhelmingly said it is difficult to measure carbon with any confidence.

One of the most surprising findings was that 61 percent of the consumers surveyed said the recession taught people to become more efficient and responsible. "...It reminds us what is important," the report quoted the respondents saying. Almost two-thirds said they would support a mandatory surcharge on their electric bills to support alternative energy intended to reduce pollution and to add American jobs.

Natural gas is gaining favor among consumers, although over half still want their utilities to invest in solar and wind power.

Here are links to a blog post about the survey and to the reports here and here.

The findings reflect what our nonprofit has noticed: the green movement is accelerating. Business, real estate developers and landlords, the military and even professional sports realize that going green is good for multiple reasons.

This story notes  the San Francisco 49ers are using low CO2 concrete in their new stadium because they want to reduce their carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the owners of the  iconic Empire State Building say their energy retrofits will save them $4.4 million per year - a 3-year payback. Now, that's a good investment! More here.

Some analysts describe an evolution ; others describe a revolution., Whatever it is, it is clear that clean energy and energy efficiency are gaining a higher profile.

Photo of Empire State Building by Eggo