If all of your friends used solar energy, would you do the same? A recent study suggests the answer is yes.
University of Alberta environmental sociologist John Parkins surveyed 2,065 Canadians to see what influences their use of solar panels. He found that respondents were more likely to adopt green technology if others in their communities were already using it. “Seeing the technologies in use creates this sensory environment that enhances the desire to do the right thing, to make a decision that would otherwise be difficult to make,” Parkins told the university. “If you are immersed in an environment where these technologies are all around you, they become more familiar and doable.”
Parkins contends that individuals also would be more inclined to spend money on solar panels if they became more common in public places such as schools, sporting venues and government buildings. “They can promote renewable energy by making it more visible to people.”
The study also found that general factual knowledge of energy issues and socioeconomic indicators weren’t predictors of intention to adopt solar panels. “Environmental values” and engagement in energy issues, however, were. “We found that if someone is more engaged in this way, they are also more inclined to adopt the use of solar panels,” Parkins said. “That’s not surprising, but the idea is that just general levels of civic engagement matter.” People needn’t be experts in renewable energy to be more likely to spend money on it, according to Parkins; they just have to be interested — which he says governments can encourage through public meetings. “An engaged citizen is more confident and willing to adopt renewable energy technology,” he said.
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