Renewable Energy Institute shines spotlight on global awareness in 2021

With COP26 increasingly visible on the horizon, paired with the UN’s recent warning of a climate “code red for humanity,” the topic of renewable energy & green technology is playing on the minds of many. But how do the general public feel about the reality of how renewable energy can be incorporated into our lives and allow us to progress towards Net Zero goals?

In a recent survey, designed to assess general awareness surrounding renewable energy, the Renewable Energy Institute (REI) asked the public to give us their opinions on a range of questions regarding the implementation of renewable energy and green technology in everyday life. The survey was designed to find out about people’s interest in renewable energy and sustainability according to different demographics and was made available to a wide audience across our social media channels and mailing lists. We wanted to hear from everyone, whether they had never really thought much about renewable energy before, or whether they have an ongoing interest or career in the sector.

Analysing the responses of participants from all over the world, here are a few conclusions that we were able to draw.

With crucial climate targets firmly in place, 39% of respondents felt that they still don’t have access to the green technology needed to make Net Zero a reality.

We asked what barriers people face when using green technology and over a third told us they simply don’t have access to it in the first place. This is, of course, often heavily influenced by geography or a country’s overall wealth, however, our findings did also highlight that perceived lack of access remained a problem across developed nations such as the UK and USA.

A significant aspect of fixing this issue will involve raising general awareness around where people can access these options and also emphasising why they should choose to do so. However, for the most part, improving this situation will require substantial mobilisation of finance to ensure that this technology is widely available at an affordable price.

The governments and organisations involved in COP26 aim to focus on both of these avenues by encouraging collaboration between nations and also by creating $100 billion a year to help poorer nations ensure they have the infrastructure required to reach climate change goals. Nevertheless, this will be no mean feat in a global economy still making its way out of a pandemic.

The cost of green energy and technology remains the biggest hurdle for those wanting to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.

Not only do people have limited access to renewable energy and green technology, but many of those who do have access just cannot afford it.

With the cost of a fully electric car falling in the region of £40,000, it is easy to see why 77% of our survey participants selected that green technology was too expensive for them to consider. While numerous energy providers now offer 100% renewable energy, these options can often be more expensive than their fossil fuel alternatives, at a time when people are already struggling with costly utility bills due to the pandemic.

So, with more than three quarters of respondents stating they can’t afford to use green energy and technology what can be done to make these resources more accessible? In August 2021, Swedish furniture brand IKEA, announced their decision to venture into the renewable energy market with the aim of making electricity from sustainable sources “more accessible and affordable for all”.[1]

Time will tell, however actions like this from large corporations could go a long way in alleviating the concerns over accessibility and cost highlighted by our survey. Not only this, but it means that more and more households that wouldn’t usually consider renewable energy may do so in the future.

The overwhelming majority of people in 2021 want their political party to prioritise sustainability and green technology.

A staggering 93% of respondents, from across the world and political spectrum, highlighted this as somewhat or very important to them, leaving no doubt that the global electorate wants to see effective and sustained political action going forward.

Further comments from participants suggest that political transparency in regards to sustainable policies and priorities was also of crucial importance to voters with participants highlighting concerns over the honesty of politicians on their sustainable policies. With one respondent stating “politicians do nothing but grandstand,” it seems there is a long way to go before people feel sustainability and green technology is being effectively prioritised.

The unwillingness of politicians to prioritise sustainability is the single biggest barrier to reducing carbon emissions.

It is clearly important to the global electorate that politicians focus on sustainability. Yet, unfortunately, people don’t feel that their political parties are actually choosing to prioritise these issues; 73% or respondents stated that they saw politicians failing to prioritise sustainability as the biggest road block in the way of reducing emissions.

If COP26 does not showcase a greater effort on their part to tackle these questions, then politicians across the world may find they have to alter their plan of action drastically in order to appeal to an increasingly sustainability minded electorate. With one survey participant arguing “we must not even consider” any party that does not address the issue of carbon emissions in their manifesto, politicians must take note or potentially face obsolescence.

Companies will need to prioritise sustainability going forward in order to secure the talent they need for their workforce in the future.

Not only do people want their politicians to place an emphasis on sustainability but our survey shows how crucial it is that their employers do the same.

The results highlighted that an incredible 70% of respondents said that their decision to work for a particular company would be influenced by whether or not that company had a suitable sustainability plan in place.

Today’s employees obviously want to know that their company is doing all that it can to promote sustainability within the workplace. A great way to show your employees that you are engaging in this topic is to actively take part in regular training.

The Renewable Energy Institute offers a wide range of different courses that can help with this. We recommend the Renewable Energy Management and Finance course as an ideal starting point for employers who want to further their knowledge on topics such as efficiency, net zero and carbon reduction as well as evaluate the benefits of adopting renewable energy technology.

To find out more about this course please click here.

Many people think Nuclear power could be the answer to the question of reducing carbon emissions.

We asked our participants which non-renewable technology they thought could be significant in ensuring a sustainable future and a small majority of 55% chose nuclear power ahead of other options such as hydrogen energy and carbon offsetting. While admittedly a contentious question, whether people class nuclear power as renewable or not, they appear to think that it has an important part to play in the reduction of carbon emissions in the future.

The World Nuclear Association argues nuclear energy is an “important part of the solution to climate change” due to the fact that it is a low-carbon option and can be deployed on a large scale within the timescale required for various targets. Furthermore, they suggest that while various forms of renewable energy have had an impact, they have ultimately failed to replace the need for fossil fuel alternatives and hail nuclear power as the option to do this once and for all.[2]

However, implementing this option may not be perceived well by the general public and efforts may need to be taken to convince people of its benefits, and whether these outweigh the issues of creating hazardous waste and potential safety concerns. There is also some evidence to suggest governments are not focusing on nuclear as a viable option either. The Director of The World Nuclear Association recently made calls for Nuclear Power to have a fair representation at COP26 and not to ignore it in favour of other low carbon options.

Therefore, it is clear that a great deal of discussion and education will need to take place if we are to truly consider nuclear power in the future; nevertheless our research shows that the seeds of interest have certainly been planted.

Final Thoughts

The Renewable Energy Institute’s global survey has given us a fascinating insight into opinions on renewable energy and green technology across the world. The Institute’s research is vital not only because it highlighted that renewable energy and green technology are of great importance to people in several aspects of their everyday lives, but primarily because it suggests that there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding it. In which case, global efforts going forward, including COP26, have a huge responsibility to alleviate this uncertainty and put in place the infrastructure needed for us to embrace these technologies fully.