Majority of Americans favor energy system overhaul, study finds

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares to present its draft guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector under the Clean Air Act, a survey from Zogby Analytics has found that most Americans favor some sort of energy system overhaul.

Almost 75% of those polled support the cutting back reliance on old power plants, with 58% in favor of modernizing the U.S.’s power system even if it means paying more in energy bills. The addition of more solar, wind and hydropower to the country’s energy mix is supported by two-thirds of those polled.

The survey was carried out ahead of the EPA’s new draft guidelines of greenhouse gases, due to be published on June 2. Members of the U.S. Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) gathered at a press briefing for the survey’s results, and discussed ways to modernize the electric power system of the country through advanced energy services and technologies expected to be covered under the upcoming regulation.

"We believe the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions represents an opportunity to modernize the electric power system for the 21st century, and this new survey shows that Americans support the idea of modernizing the electric power sector by a wide margin," said AEE SVP of policy and government affairs, Malcolm Woolf. "Advanced energy companies offer dozens of technologies and services that can be used by states to meet the EPA carbon standards and upgrade electric power service for households and businesses at the same time."

During the meeting, a number of CEOs from AEE member companies spoke of their belief that advanced energy solutions can help transform the U.S. power system, including Steve Cowell, CEO of Conservation Service Group, who remarked that the U.S. has already proved that lowering reliance on existing power plants has helped save money for homes and businesses. "This approach also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is a winning solution for the economy and the environment, and doing more of it multiplies those benefits," he said.

President and founder of Opower, Alex Laskey, said: "Embracing behavioral energy efficiency alone could abate 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution and save families $2.2 billion every year."

Susan Reilly, chair of the board of directors of the American Wind Energy Association, said that wind is no longer an alternative energy option, but an imperative ingredient in the 21st century power mix, alongside solar and hydropower technologies. "The U.S. electricity sector is responsible for about 40% of this country’s carbon emissions, which presents a huge opportunity for renewable energy to provide significant reductions," she added.

The EPA will publish its draft proposals on Monday. Analysts and energy experts in the country believe the rules will make it impossible for new coal-fired generating units to be built, and will call upon industry seek cleaner energy alternatives. The draft proposal is also likely to regulate emissions from existing power plants – a move that is likely to have a significantly positive impact on the renewable energy field.