Encouraging Ohioans to Implement Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Dec. 3, 2013

Written by Myra Moss, Associate Professor and Educator, OSU Extension, Licking County

In 2011 OSU Extension collaborated with the Ohio Department of Development Energy Resources Office and Green Energy Ohio, Inc., to develop a statewide energy outreach and education program.  The purpose of this program was to help Ohio’s residents and businesses access useful knowledge, information, resources and assistance in energy efficiency and renewable energy such as solar or wind. 

One outcome of this program was the creation of the EnergizeOhio.osu.edu web site, designed to provide a “one stop” location for residents and business owners to learn about and access resources, programs, initiatives and assistance available to help implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  

Another outcome was research on the factors that motivate residents and businesses to implement energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects in their homes and businesses.  Here is what we learned by conducting an Internet survey of two groups of people - those who had implemented energy efficiency and/or renewable energy technologies (adopters) and those who have not yet made these investments but would consider it under certain conditions (not-yet-adopters). 

Motivating Reasons for Energy Efficiency:

Adopters were equally motivated by reducing environmental impact and practical/financial issues such as reduction in energy costs and cost of materials and installation.  For those who had not yet adopted, financial concerns were foremost with reduction in energy costs and cost of materials most important in motivating willingness, and reduction in environmental impact third.

Motivating Reasons for Renewable Energy:

Results varied slightly for renewable energy initiatives.  Adopters indicated that reducing environmental impact was the top reason for them to act quickly on renewable energy projects with the availability of financial incentives and reduction in energy bills second.  Not-yet-adopters again listed financial reasons first and second (reduce energy bills and financial incentives) while there third reason was to reduce dependence on utilities.  Reducing environment impact was fourth.

Summary of Survey Results:

  • Environmental considerations, such as reducing environmental impact was the primary reason that renewable energy technologies were implemented
  • Financial considerations, such as reducing energy bills and faster payback on investments, were most important for those who had not yet implemented renewable energy technologies.
  • Financial benefits are on the increase as the key motivation for implementing energy projects.
  • Those who have not yet implemented renewable energy projects still view improving environmental conditions as an important motivator however; the financial return on investment is more critical to this group’s ability to complete these energy projects.
  • Not yet adopters have implemented energy efficiency measures at a considerably higher rate than the adopters. This is of particular interest since energy providers recognize it is important to also reduce the consumption of energy usage when implementing renewable energy projects.   Not yet adopters have begun their energy changes with lower cost energy efficiency activities such as caulking and insulation.

Programs and Policies that will Encourage Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Many different organizations, entities, and communities who play a role in promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy can use the insights gained from this survey to encourage the broader adoption of these technologies.  First, investment in energy projects by businesses and residents is encouraged by the availability of incentive programs.  Providing a variety of programs, with increased funding as budgets allow, can lead to quicker implementation of energy projects among Ohio’s residents and businesses.  Second, early adopters of renewable energy provide ideal audiences for educational sessions on increasing energy efficiency in homes and businesses.  Targeting this group’s concern with environmental benefits may be an effective way to engage them in energy efficiency measures as will highlighting the benefit of even greater energy savings and faster return on investment.   Finally, the use of real world examples and engaging speakers who have implemented energy projects would be an effective method to connect with residents and businesses interested in implementing energy projects. This method helps interested individuals better understand how to start, finance and complete a project from someone who has actually done it.