2016 member-consumer research project

Great River Energy has conducted quantitative survey research of a random sample of households in its 28 member cooperative service area every two years beginning in 2008. The objective of this research is to measure public attitudes on important energy-related issues.

Optimism among residents in Great River Energy members’ service territory is exceptionally high

  • 85 percent believe Minnesota is headed in the right direction, which is up from 40 percent in 2008.
  • Only 13 percent believe Minnesota is on the wrong track, down substantially from 52 percent in 2008.
  • 50 percent believe Minnesota’s economy will be better a year from now, only 7 percent say worse and 43 percent believe it will be about the same.
  • When asked to name the most important issue facing Minnesota, no single issue claimed a majority but providing adequate funding for education, having access to affordable health care and controlling taxes and spending all scored above 20 percent. Thirteen percent said protecting public safety is the most important state issue, which is considerably higher than prior surveys.

Water concerns viewed as a higher priority environmental issue

  • When asked to identify the most important environmental issue in Minnesota, managing the run-off of chemicals from lawns and farms (26 percent) and improving water quality (20 percent) scored almost half of the responses.
  • Reducing air pollution was cited by 23 percent as the most important state environmental issue.

Less urgency regarding energy and environmental issues

  • Encouraging the development of more renewable energy dropped from 44 percent who said it is the most important environmental issue in 2008 to just 7 percent in 2016. Promoting energy conservation as the most important environmental issue dropped from 6 percent in 2008 to only 1 percent in 2016.
  • When asked about balancing environmental protection with costs to consumers and the economy, 39 percent said consumers should not have to pay for any environmental protection costs, up from 23 percent in 2010. Willingness to pay “modest costs” to protect the environment declined from 74 percent in 2010 to 48 percent in 2016 and only 9 percent say “all efforts should be made to protect the environment regardless of the expense to consumers and businesses.”

But, adding more renewables in Minnesota sees significant support

  • When asked about the diversification by power utilities to add more renewable sources of energy and rely less on traditional sources such as coal, 76 percent said they believe this is a good idea. Only 16 percent said it is a bad idea.
  • 68 percent support adding additional transmission and power lines to support the development of more wind power while 26 percent oppose.

Mixed views with respect to preferred energy sources for Minnesota

  • When asked to identify the energy source they most want to encourage in Minnesota, 26 percent cited solar, followed by 20 percent for natural gas, 13 percent wind and 9 percent coal.
  • Conversely when asked to identify the energy source they most want to discourage in Minnesota, 30 percent cited nuclear followed by 17 percent who said coal and 16 percent who said burning garbage for energy.

Affordability is top priority, most view electricity as currently affordable

  • 78 percent agree that electricity is generally affordable for most families and businesses, only 19 percent disagree. This view has been consistent each year Great River Energy has conducted the survey since 2008.
  • 22 percent are concerned about the future affordability of electricity over the next five years but 76 percent are not concerned. This finding contrasts sharply with prior years when 82 percent were concerned about future affordability in the 2008 survey; 76 percent concerned in 2010; 57 percent in 2012; and 43 percent in 2012.
  • When asked to identify the most important expectation of the electricity provider to their home, 62 percent cited affordability followed by 22 percent who said reliability, 10 percent said environmental practices and 6 percent said having programs to help reduce consumption and costs were most important.

Consumers are selective when considering the adoption of ‘green practices’

  • 63 percent indicate an interest in postponing the use of some appliances and other non-essential uses to off-peak hours to get lower electrical rates from their utility and 51 percent said they may have an interest in participating in a community solar program, assuming a modest cost.
  • 53 percent said they are likely to participate in some home utility conservation programs if energy costs stay at current levels or go higher while 41 percent are not interested. 58 percent indicate an interest in participating if their utility provides financial incentives.
  • Only 11 percent indicated an interest in purchasing a plug-in electric car in the next three- to-five years. This view went up to 19 percent if their electric utility provided some monetary incentive, but 75 percent are not interested even if provided a monetary incentive.
  • 51 percent have some awareness of self-generation electrical power systems for the home, however only 7 percent have installed any of these technologies (e.g., solar panels, home generator, wind, battery packs).

Members report high satisfaction with their electric cooperatives

  • 96 percent indicate they are satisfied with the energy provider to their home of which 48 percent are very satisfied. Only 5 percent are not satisfied. Satisfaction with their electric cooperative has remained very high (above 95 percent) each year of the Great River Energy survey.
  • 55 percent prefer a member-owned cooperative as their energy utility (25 percent strongly prefer) while only 10 percent prefer an investor-owned utility and one-third said it doesn’t make a difference to them.
  • When asked to rate the credibility of various entities who might speak about energy issues, 92 percent cited their electric cooperative as credible (43 percent very credible); 70 percent said other citizens or neighborhood groups are credible; 64 percent cited Great River Energy as credible; 58 percent said environmental groups. Less credible messengers on energy issues were state legislative officials and local chambers.

METHODOLOGY: The survey contains the results of a survey administered to 625 randomly-selected adult residents within Great River Energy’s 28 member cooperative service territory in Minnesota. Professional interviewers conducted the survey by telephone between Dec. 1 and Dec. 13, 2016. The typical respondent took 22minutes to complete the questionnaire. Cellphone-only households were 36 percent of the sample, while landline-only households comprised 14 percent. 50 percent reported both a landline and a cellphone. The results of the survey are projectable to all adult residents in the Great River Energy Minnesota service area with +/-4.0 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.

February 23, 2017

Download a PDF of the 2016 member-consumer research project