The “India Consumer Perceptions
on Renewable Energy Survey,” conducted by Mercom Communications India, a
wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global communications
and consulting firm, focused on gauging people’s and businesses’ perception and
attitudes toward non-conventional sources of energy in India. Over 1,700
residential and commercial and industrial customers were surveyed.
When asked about their impression of solar
energy, 58 percent of both commercial and residential survey respondents said
they strongly favor solar. Opposition to solar was negligible, with fewer than
one percent of commercial and residential respondents either somewhat or
higher favor respondents gave solar relative to other generation sources,
throughout our survey, we found a general lack of education and awareness, and
in some instances misconceptions about solar, such as its use being limited to
This may be
because the solar industry has done almost nothing to inform and educate
consumers about its potential and versatility. For an industry that is
completely dependent on subsidies at the moment, they have not invested much
time and effort in getting consumers on their side.
cases, solar companies have been focused on courting the government to ensure
they are in the ‘good books’ and sign their next lucrative PPA.
it is the residential and business customers who consume their main product –
electricity. End users will become even more important to solar’s success as
the market shifts towards distributed generation, commercial and residential
industry will need stronger support from consumers to pressure policy makers on
subsidies, supporting policies, land use and others because solar is still a
nascent industry in India. It is simply not enough to have a line in a press
release showing how much CO2 emissions will be reduced.
As we are
seeing in the United States and Europe, the market has quickly shifted in a few
years from “business-to-government” to “business-to-business” to
“business-to-consumer.” The companies that comprise the solar industry need to
begin investing in customer education and moving public opinion immediately if
they want a large sustainable customer base in the long run.
Given its low operational costs and
environmental benefits, it is somewhat surprising that strong wind favorability
was less than 50 percent for commercial and residential respondents. About 50
percent of commercial and about 46 percent of residential consumers strongly favored
percent of commercial and 25 percent of residential respondents somewhat
favored wind. Twenty-one percent of each group said their impression was
neutral while 6 percent of commercial and 7 percent of residential respondents
had no opinion.
wind projects tend to be larger in size than solar and away from population
centers, the perception of wind as a clean energy source and its benefits need
to be communicated to the people.
wind is dependent on subsidies and the withdrawal of accelerated depreciation
and generation-based incentives in 2012 hurt the industry a great deal
resulting in a drop in installation growth in 2013. Without education and
information, you cannot expect constituencies to demand clean wind energy, and
there will be little to no pressure on policymakers to do something about it.
A plurality of both commercial (47 percent)
and residential respondents (39 percent) had a neutral impression of coal. Only
14 percent of commercial and 18 percent of residential respondents were either
somewhat or strongly opposed to coal. Despite its relatively low favorability
numbers, it is good news for the coal industry and not so good news for clean
energy sectors because the coal industry is entrenched in the power sector
whereas clean energy is still trying to gain significant market share.
It is up to
the clean energy industry to tout not only the benefits of clean and renewable energies,
but also to clearly differentiate them from conventional fossil fuels. Coal is
the dirtiest fossil fuel and a large contributor to regional and global air
Depending on the quality of coal
and control equipment at the power plant, air pollution from coal combustion
includes SO2, NOx, CO2, particulate matter, and mercury. Coal plants can also
emit lead, cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals, carbon monoxide,
hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and arsenic. Taking just one
pollutant, sulfur dioxide, which contributes to regional health and
environmental problems, India is now second in the world in emissions. Roughly
half of India’s SO2 emissions come from coal-fired power, according to NASA
like the United States and China, as well as the European Union are
aggressively regulating coal power plants and phasing them out.
India has the fourth largest reserves of coal, domestic coal supply has never
been able to keep up with demand resulting in large coal imports of about 20
percent which is a threat to national security.
The price of
coal, imported coal especially, has also continued to rise, eating into
precious foreign capital reserves; the coal shortage has been one of the
primary causes of power shortages in the country.
clean energy industry adds their voice and aggressively communicates the
disadvantages of coal, informing consumers and creating awareness, coal’s
culpability in India’s power crisis will continue to fly under the radar.
Click here for a copy of the survey: India Consumer Perceptions on
Renewable Energy Survey