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UMaine Study: Residents Support Investing in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Fifty-two percent of surveyed Maine adults supported increasing all Mainers’ monthly electricity bills to invest in renewable energy options and/or energy efficiency programs to reduce carbon emissions.

That’s according to a University of Maine study that also found 37 percent of the nearly 400 respondents viewed energy efficiency and renewable energy investments as complementary. They divided the money evenly — giving half to renewable energy investment and half to energy efficiency programs.

UMaine economist Caroline Noblet and colleagues conducted the study in 2013, the same year fossil fuels (81 percent) and nuclear energy accounted for more than 90 percent of energy use in the United States.

“Energy choice studies generally only gauge support (or not) for a policy, rarely do they take the next step — as we have done here — to look at how people would allocate these investment dollars,” Noblet says.

“Understanding how Maine people evaluate, and make tradeoffs between, energy policy options is important when we consider investments in our energy portfolio.”

The survey included four renewable energy options — hydroelectric energy, land-based wind, deepwater offshore wind and tidal energy; each survey participant evaluated one of these choices against energy efficiency.

The average dollar amount households were willing to pay for these programs was $6.76 a month, or more than $80 per year, per Maine household. When respondents had to choose how much funding to give to each option — renewable energy investments or to an energy efficiency program — participants allocated 56 percent of funds to energy efficiency and 44 percent of funds to renewable energy, on average.

In addition, 76 percent of respondents indicated they would distribute 50 percent or more of funds monthly to energy efficiency; 13 percent said they would allot all of the money to energy efficiency.

The authors said it is important for energy portfolios to include options attractive to multiple audiences.

Noblet conducted the study with Mark Anderson, senior instructor in resource economics and policy and Fellow in the George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; Mario Teisl, director of the School of Economics; Shannon McCoy, UMaine psychologist; and Ed Cervone, executive director at Educate Maine.

A total of 397 randomly selected Mainers 18 years old and older took part in the survey — 63 percent were male, 57 was the mean age, $71,153 was the median annual household income and $100 was the average monthly electric bill.

The researchers noted the surveyed sample was older, had a higher percentage of males and a higher income than Maine’s 2012 census percentages.

The study was conducted as part of Maine Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a program of the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

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