Consumers in China, India, Japan and the U.S. believe that solar power has high growth potential, according to the results of the fourth annual solar energy survey from Applied Materials, a study that measures consumers' understanding and awareness of solar energy.
However, many respondents had a mixed understanding of the current cost and adoption rates of solar technology, highlighting what is arguably the greatest challenge to solar energy use – lack of consumer awareness.
Last year at this time, industry data suggested that by 2020, 98% of the world's population would have achieved grid parity, or solar energy power that is cost-competitive with traditional energy prices, but data now suggest this milestone will be achieved by the end of 2012, according to the survey.
Fifty-five percent of all respondents recognize this shift and believe solar energy is less expensive than traditional energy sources, such as coal. Respondents in India were most likely (68%) to believe solar power was less expensive. Conversely, respondents in Japan were most likely (51%) to believe solar power was more expensive compared to traditional energy sources.
Of the 35% of international consumers who believe solar power to be more expensive, 39% believe it will become equal to or less expensive than traditional power within nine years.
Nearly half (46%) of all respondents believe the growth of the solar market would create jobs. The U.S. is most optimistic in this regard, with nearly six in 10 consumers (58%) expressing this view.
China and India are nearly equal in second place in their estimation of job growth, at 49% and 48%, respectively. Consumers in Japan are the most cautious, with four in 10 believing that solar power will have no impact on the job market. Twenty-five percent of people surveyed internationally think that solar will reduce the number of jobs.
Nearly six in 10 (58%) consumers in China believe that the projected rate of solar energy adoption to 15 GW by 2015 is too slow of an adoption rate. Similarly, when respondents in India were asked about the government's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy's goal of increasing the contribution of renewable energy to 6% of India's total energy mix by 2022, more than half (51%) voiced concern that the rate of adoption was too slow.
Survey respondents were most likely to believe the U.S. (26%) followed by Japan (22%) had installed the greatest number of solar panels, while only 17% correctly identified Germany as the leader in solar installations. Japanese consumers were far more likely (35%) to correctly identify Germany as the leader compared to respondents from other countries (U.S. 9%, China 15%, India 9%).
More information about the survey is available here.