College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

Why Invest in Renewable Energy Technologies?

Research project seeks answers from Maryland homeowners
Home electricity meter

Consumers find renewable energy sources appealing, but what factors determine a homeowner's decision to invest in renewable energy technologies? A team of student researchers from the AREC Undergraduate Research Office led by Professor Anna Alberini have recently completed a survey of Maryland homeowners to answer these questions.

The survey was conducted during the summer of 2014 by sending 10,000 postcards to residents in five central Maryland counties. Respondents answered an online questionnaire and the completed questionnaires were analyzed to determine the motivations and perceptions of users of photovoltaic, solar hot water, and geothermal systems. Researchers wanted to learn the importance of incentives, property values, neighbors, and leasing schemes in making the decision to add renewable energy sources to a home.

Survey Postcard

Concern for the environment appeared to be a common motivator for users of renewable energy technologies. "We spoke over the phone with a few of our respondents and found that most were very willing to cooperate with us and curious about the results of the survey. We feel that Maryland residents are interested in their energy usage and its environmental consequences," reports research team member Jessica Post. Financial incentives ranked highly as well.

The most common source of renewable energy from survey responses was photovoltaic cell (solar panel) systems. Users of these systems reported that they were motivated by concern about the environment and most (almost 75%) received some form of rebate or financial incentive. Property value considerations were not a significant motivator for installation; however, all homeowners—including those without renewable energy sources—felt that solar panels were likely to improve property values.

Installing a geothermal heat pump in an existing home is costly. Survey responses indicated that almost all users (more than 95%) of geothermal systems did receive financial incentives to install. Solar hot water systems were less commonly installed among the respondents, but these too reported a high number of users (about 88%) receiving financial incentives for installation.

A presentation with details about the research project can be seen at

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