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Green Building News

Gazing into Energy Efficiency’s Crystal Ball

Housing market struggles and climate change politics aside, energy efficient appliances and retrofits will become increasingly popular this year, some analysts predict

There’s nothing new about the notion that many people respond to economic uncertainty by trying to live more economically. This week, one research company reaffirmed that notion with a take on the market for energy-efficient products and clean-technology services. Another research firm, meanwhile, has been examining consumers’ thinking behind these green purchases.

On Tuesday, Pike Research, based in Boulder, Colorado, announced results of a study, titled “Energy Efficient Homes,” that indicates recovery from the recession will be accompanied by solid growth in three energy efficiency categories: the market for home energy audits, which Pike expects will almost triple in size, from $8.1 billion in 2009 to $23.4 billion, by 2014; the retrofit market, with a 31% increase, to $50.2 billion from $38.3 billion, by 2014; and purchases of Energy Star certified refrigerators and clothes washers, generating $21.9 billion in revenue from 2009 to 2014.

“Energy efficiency is stepping into the light after a long period of obscurity,” Pike’s managing director, Clint Wheelock, said in the release. The principal market drivers, he noted, include “increased environmental awareness among consumers, government incentives, utility energy efficiency programs, and new offerings and rebates from product manufacturers.”

Getting real with marketing

Back in December another green-trends researcher, Knoxville-based Shelton Group, presented a list titled “Six consumer trends to watch for 2010.” The list noted in-house survey results showing that while consumers respond favorably to the prospect of saving money through green behavior, they even more strongly embraced the “don’t waste” motivation to conserve. The trends list also pointed to consumers’ increased disenchantment with energy efficiency measures that don’t live up to expectations created by the marketing – and the need for marketers to better manage expectations. Also, the list notes, the prospect of saving money will play a somewhat lesser a role in motivating consumers to go green than the prospect of increased comfort and convenience.

As for climate change, Shelton Group surveys show fewer and fewer people believe that it is happening and is caused by human activity – a consequence, in part, says the company, of Climategate. (Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann, a Climategate figure and major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was this week cleared of scientific misconduct in three claims against him; a fourth claim is being reviewed separately.)

Dissecting consumer motivation

Overall, though, the kerfuffle over Climategate and the apparent drop-off in the number of global-warming believers aren’t having the expected effect, according to the researcher’s preliminary reading of data it collected for its 2010 Eco Pulse study of consumer trends in the green sector. “It appears that green purchasing behavior and propensity is actually up,” Shelton Group says in a blog post. “We’ve been advising our clients and our blog readers for years that most folks don’t go green to save the planet, and this is just more data to that effect. We’re seeing comfort and convenience continue to take precedence over the environment, and we’re seeing health and safety concerns continue to gain ground in priority in some categories.”

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for a summary of the final report.


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