Public Knowledge, Behaviors & Preferences about Energy, Fall 2015

Categories: Survey

Energy Cover 102215 new logo_Page_1For the past three years, we have been asking Marylanders questions about their preferences for the state’s energy policies; their attitudes toward the energy sources they use in heating, cooling and powering their homes; and the actions they take to conserve energy at home and in their transportation choices. Marylanders support state policies that increase renewable energy generation, and say that they are willing to pay more for wind and solar power. Residents highly favor expansion of energy efficiency rebates and report taking a number of efficiency and conservation actions in their own homes, most commonly turning off lights and replacing inefficient light bulbs.

George Mason University partnered with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in fielding the survey in 2015. This report is one of three from the study; other reports highlight attitudes, behaviors and policy preferences on public health and climate change.


Key findings include:

1. Marylanders support the state’s mandate for renewable energy and expanding incentives for generation.

  • Three-quarters (75%) of Marylanders say they support a mandate for energy suppliers to meet the current state target for renewable energy, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). A similar percentage also support expanding incentives for renewable generation (77%).
  • Public support for the RPS has remained consistent across the past two years (2013, 75%; 2014, 73%).

2. EmPOWER’s energy efficiency rebates are rated highly by state residents.

  • More than 8 out of 10 Marylanders back the current state’s policy of expanding rebates to help people purchase energy-efficient lighting and appliances.

MAP FOR ENERGY3. Residents urge caution on the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

  • More than two-thirds of the state (69%) have heard of the practice used to extract natural gas from shale formations deep in the earth using methods called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Most either support a delay to further consider the results of new studies (35%), or an outright ban (28%).
  • Respondents say the state will gain new jobs from allowing “fracking” (66%), but also cite likely environmental impacts, including harm to wildlife (61%), water pollution (59%), soil contamination (58%), and increased truck traffic (53%).
  • Less than half list public health as a concern from the practice of hydraulic fracturing (47%).

4. Many are unclear what fuels their electrical energy.

  • In 2013, almost half said that they couldn’t identify the largest fuel sources that generated the state’s electricity. By 2015 only a third of residents said they didn’t know (32%).
  • Coal (21%) and natural gas (19%) are perceived as the largest sources of the state’s electrical energy. The two largest sources of Maryland’s electricity generation are coal-fired (40%) and nuclear (40%) power plants with natural gas a distant third (15%).

5. Solar and wind energy are increasingly favorites for growth, but not coal.

  • Between 2013 and 2015 there was an increase of 16 percentage points – from 47% to 63% – in the number of people who said there should be much more solar energy produced. There was also an increase of 19 percentage points of people who said that much more wind energy should be produced, a shift from 36% to 55%.
  • Just over half of Marylanders say that they would like to see less coal (52%) used to generate the state’s electrical energy.

6. Marylanders say solar, wind, coal, and gas are cheap to moderately priced, and are willing to pay more for renewables.

  • Marylanders are most likely to say that wind (71%), coal (77%), solar (62%) and natural gas (67%) are cheap or moderately priced. More than 6 in 10 Marylanders say nuclear power is somewhat or very expensive (62%).
  • A majority of the state does not want to pay more each month on their electricity bill for coal-, nuclear-, and natural gas-powered electricity (80%, 68%, 58%, respectively), but they will pay more for wind (67%) and solar (68%).
  • Across the state, people put a premium on renewable energy, from the four westernmost counties (wind, 63%; solar, 64%) to the Eastern Shore (wind, 65%; solar, 66%) (Central, 66%/68%; Southern, 67%/67%).

7. Energy efficiency and conservation are popular; recycling is perceived as purely “green.”

  • Marylanders report turning off lights (98%), installing efficient light bulbs (86%), adjusting their thermostats (84%), and installing efficient home appliances (61%). More than half of Marylanders say they have sealed air leaks (53%) and installed programmable thermostats (51%) at home, allowing them to save energy.
  • Most of the state recycles (82%), the only activity surveyed that people say they do for mostly environmental reasons (75%).

The mail survey was fielded from April 11 to June 24 with a response rate of 27%. The unweighted sample margin of error is +/- 2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval for the state and less than +/- 5.7 percentage points for each of four regions of the state.


Download the full report.

Download policy support maps.

Download the press release.

Download a PowerPoint of report figures.