US support for contribution of solar hardening

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Belief that a major contribution from solar to energy needs in the US is no longer a distant prospect appears to be hardening among Americans, according to a poll.

A Harris Poll, the long-running bellwether of US public opinion, asked 2,205 Americans in October last year to give their views on the contributions solar will make in the coming years.

Over the next two to five years, only 31% said solar would make a “major” contribution to meeting US energy needs, 53% said it would make only a “minor” difference” and 16% said it would make no difference at all.

But looking further ahead, to the next 15-20 years, that view reversed, with 57% backing solar as a major energy contributor and 35% saying it would be a only minor player. Only 8% expect it to make no difference at all by this time.

And Americans also appear confident in the solar technical expertise that now exists in the US: asked if they believe the country has the technological know-how for solar to become an important energy source, 63% said they did, 20% said they did not and 17% said they were not sure.

Compared to a similar Harris Poll six years ago, the latest findings suggest a slight hardening of belief in solar as a significant energy contributor in the near rather than much longer term future.

When the same questions were asked in Harris Poll six years ago, belief was stronger in solar as a long-term energy solution, with 60% then proclaiming it to be a major contributor in the 15-20-year timeframe compared to 57% today. The sentiment six years ago was slightly less in favour of solar as a short-term fix, with 27% compared to today’s 31% believing it to be so.

Unsurprisingly, the poll found belief in solar to be stronger among American Democrats than Independents or Republicans: over the next two to five years 39% of Democrats endorsed solar as a major contributor, compared to 29% and 22% of Independents or Republicans respectively; over 15-20 years the comparable figures for the different political allegiances are 69%, 56% and 44%.

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