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Public attitudes toward clean and renewable energy concepts have tended to fluctuate and, in several cases, decline. According to a new consumer survey from Navigant Research, favorable attitudes for a number of these concepts - particularly solar energy, wind energy, hybrid vehicles and electric cars - have rebounded significantly from their 2012 levels.

In regards to smart grids, Navigant finds that 37% of respondents stated their opinion of the concept was favorable or very favorable. Perhaps most telling is that the largest percentage of consumers (57%) were either neutral or had no opinion on smart grids, which may indicate a lack of consumer education on the benefits of smart grids, the research firm notes.

Smart meters, meanwhile, had a higher percentage of favorable responses (43%) and a relatively large percentage of unfamiliar or neutral responses (47%).

Close to 80% of respondents favored the concept of solar energy - which led all concepts in favorable responses - followed by wind energy at 72%.

The average favorability rating for the 10 concepts that fall under the categories of clean energy, clean transportation, smart grid and building efficiency also rose to 51% - the highest level seen in Navigant Research's annual survey since 2010.

"Between 2009 and 2012, there were steady declines in favorability for some clean energy concepts, particularly the most favorable concepts, such as solar energy, wind energy, and hybrid and electric vehicles," says Clint Wheelock, managing director with Navigant Research. "[2013] saw statistically significant increases in favorability for seven of the 10 concepts and a decline for only one - nuclear power."

The survey of 1,084 U.S. adults was conducted in fall 2013 and asked respondents to provide their level of favorability for the following key concepts:

- Solar energy
- Wind energy
- Smart grid
- Smart meters
- Nuclear power
- Hybrid vehicles
- Electric cars
- Natural gas vehicles
- Biofuels
- LEED certification

According to the Navigant survey, the similarly high levels of favorable views toward solar and wind energy indicate that consumers are generally supportive of the more established renewable energies that harness naturally occurring power sources. Since these two concepts have retained their most favored status year after year, Navigant Research asserts that consumers consider these renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future.

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