Poll: People Don't Want to Pay More for Renewable Energy

Alternate sources of energy are being examined more closely, but many in the five largest countries in Europe and in the United States do not want to pay any more for renewable energy sources, according to a Financial Times/Harris Poll conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 8.

A majority of adults who have some form of responsibility for paying household energy bills in Great Britain (54 percent) and Germany (50 percent), pluralities in Italy (44 percent), France (42 percent) and the United States (40 percent), as well as just over one-third of adults responsible for paying household energy bills in Spain (35 percent), all say they would be willing to pay nothing more for energy if it was from renewable sources.

The poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive® and drew a total of 6,448 adults aged 16 to 64 within France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States, and adults aged 18 to 64 in Italy.

When this decision of paying more is translated into actual currency, it makes it even less likely that people will be willing to pay more. Using European Commission estimates that it would cost each household an extra €150, £110, or $220 (depending on country) per month to cut greenhouse gases and get more renewable energy, strong majorities of adults in all six countries say they would not pay this extra amount.

Looking at taxes on cars, majorities favor a higher tax on higher carbon emission cars. From a high of 78 percent of adults favoring this idea in Spain to a low of just over half (53 percent) of adults favoring it in the United States, it is a winning idea. An even stronger idea is that of having a lower tax on lower carbon emission cars. At least three-quarters of adults in all six countries favor this idea. In fact, majorities of Italians (53 percent) and Spaniards (55 percent) strongly favor lower taxes on lower carbon emitting cars.

When it comes to the number of wind farms in their country, strong majorities in all six countries (from 79 percent to 92 percent) favor a large increase.

Nuclear energy produces more mixed feelings. A majority of Italians (58 percent) are in favor of building new nuclear plants in their country. Two-thirds of Spaniards (68 percent) as well as 64 percent of Germans and just over half (55 percent) of adults in Great Britain, however, oppose building new power plants in their respective countries. France and the United States are more closely divided. In France, 51 percent are opposed while in the United States, 52 percent favor building new power plants.

The response to having the government create a financial subsidy for the development of nuclear power is similar to that of building new plants. Italians are most supportive. Majorities in Germany (66 percent), Spain (64 percent), Great Britain (58 percent) and the United States (54 percent) oppose a subsidy. Again, France is the most divided as 52 percent oppose this subsidy while 48 percent would be in favor of it.

Biofuels, however, are a different story. Strong majorities in all six countries (from 65 percent in Germany to 90 percent in Italy) would favor a government subsidy for biofuels.

People seem to support renewable electricity, but they are not willing to actually pay more for it. Until people are forced to do so, or the price for renewable energy comes down considerably, people will not make the "green" choice.

This poll queried adults within France (1,076), Germany (1,111), Great Britain (1,087), Spain (1,109) and the United States (1,020) and in Italy (1,045). Figures for age, sex, education, region and Internet usage were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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