Lack of consumer understanding highlighted in solar survey

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The Applied Materials Summer Solstice survey, carried out by Ketchum Global Research & Analytics and Ipsos, reportedly interviewed 1,000 consumers in India, China, the U.S. and Japan, respectively, to gauge their awareness and understanding of solar energy.

Solar costs

According to the company’s 2011 survey, industry data pointed to the fact that solar grid parity was expected to be achieved in 2020 for 98 percent of the global population. However it boldly states that 2012 findings indicate this will be achieved by the end of this year.

Fifty five percent of the survey’s respondents reportedly recognize this cost competitiveness. Overall, it was said that 68 percent of Indian respondents believe solar is cheaper than fossil fuels, compared to 51 percent of the Japanese respondents, who think it is more expensive. Meanwhile, 39 percent said solar energy will "become equal to or less expensive than traditional power within nine years."

"Solar panels now cost less than $1 per watt, which means more than 100 countries have achieved grid parity," said Charlie Gay, president of Applied Materials’ Solar division. "We have witnessed an explosion in global solar PV installations in the past year due to the dramatic and accelerated rate of cost reductions in the supply chain. This has resulted in significant decreases in end-market costs, and a continued focus on technology innovation will further drive down the total cost of solar electric power plants."

Solar jobs

Looking to solar job prospects, 46 percent of all respondents reportedly believe industry growth will create more jobs. The U.S. is said to be most optimistic in this area, with 58 percent of respondents believing jobs will be created. Again, Japan was more cautious, with four in ten people believing no jobs will be created. Meanwhile, 25 percent was said to believe the number of jobs will actually decrease as the solar industry grows.

Commenting, Cathy Boone, senior director for Energy Policy and Market Development at Applied Materials said, "More than 50 percent of the jobs in the global solar power industry are found after the solar panel leaves the factory, such as construction teams, installers, sales people, designers, engineers, electricians, etc."

Adoption rate

Respondents from China and India reportedly indicated that they would like to see solar adopted at a faster rate. According to the survey, 58 percent of Chinese respondents said they feel the target of 15 GW of solar by 2015 is "too slow". Likewise, in India, 51 percent of respondents said the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s goal of increasing renewable energy contribution to six percent of the country’s total energy mix by 2022 was again "too slow".

Installations

Interestingly, 26 percent of respondents believe the U.S has the biggest cumulative installed solar capacity worldwide, followed by 22 percent who think Japan is the world leader. Only 17 percent were said to have correctly identified Germany as the leading country in terms of solar installations.