Report: Utility survey shows overwhelming support for renewable power


wind farm

wind farm

Americans want renewable electricity, and they want it now.

That's the conclusion of a new study that has large power providers buzzing with nerves, according to a recent report on Vox.

The report, done for the Edison Electric Institute and presented at a recent meeting of the utility trade group, shows that 70 percent of Americans said they want all-renewable energy soon.

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Even when asked if they'd support commitments to producing 100 percent of electricity from renewables if it meant their power bills would go up by 30 percent, a majority of respondents told researchers it was a "very good idea," or a "pretty good idea."

Although several utilities are working to expand their mixes of renewable power, as a whole, the industry is not ready for a move to 100 percent renewables, the report reveals.

California recently passed legislation to require 100-percent carbon-free energy production, which could include nuclear power as well as technologies such as carbon capture in traditional power plants.

Tesla Kauai solar-energy generation and storage project [photo: Tesla]

Tesla Kauai solar-energy generation and storage project [photo: Tesla]

The Sierra Club has tracked more than 80 cities in the U.S., along with five counties and two states that have committed to using 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. Among those, six cities have already reached the target.

Many large companies are also making commitments to using 100 percent renewable power, including Apple, Coca-Cola, Facebook, General Motors, Google, Ikea, Lego, and Nike.

These commitments by some utilities' largest customers—and in some cases several of the largest customers of the same power companies—are putting pressure on utilities who have told EEI that they struggle to keep up with the demand.

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The report was presented at the annual fall board and chief executive meetings of the EEI. It was designed to help utility executives shape their marketing messages, and shows that utilities dependent on fossil fuels are losing the battle to convince consumers that fossil-fuel power production should continue.

Utilities argue that battery capacity is insufficient to ensure reliable power for customers using only renewable power, and that they will continue to need "dispatchable" fossil-fueled power plants to ensure a smooth and continuous flow of power for customers.

Under President Donald Trump, the EPA has worked to roll back President Obama's Clean Power Plan, to extend the life of coal-fired power plants, and to undo other requirements that would require cleaner power, including eliminating California's clean-air program that requires the sale of electric cars.

Smokestacks pollution air quality

Smokestacks pollution air quality

The study doesn't address home solar or other renewable applications.

In the study, which layered focus-group opinions on top of a nationwide survey, explanations by power companies to explain why they can't convert to 100-percent renewable power fell on deaf ears.

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"The battery in my phone lasts all day," one focus-group member responded when told that battery technology doesn't offer enough capacity to handle 100 percent wind and solar power. "He's making excuses. 150 years ago we were lighting candles. We can make the change. We can do all this."

"I want to hear about about how the work would get done. I don't want to hear him complain about how much work it will take," said another.

The study was conducted by Maslanski & Partners, an independent market research firm, which interviewed environmentalists and utility executives in addition to conducting focus groups and the nationwide survey.

 
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