Americans understand the advantages of, and need for, energy efficiency as much as their European counterparts, but need further education about pricing advantages before they will take action that matches European levels.

The awareness of energy efficiency and the willingness expressed by Americans in a recent study conducted by Harris Interactive of four developed, mature economies surprised Mitch Williams, Senior Vice President at Rexel Holdings USA. Rexel, a large international distributor of electrical equipment, sponsored the study, which conducted interviews of 1,000 adults in the US, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

The four countries selected are all “bound on the same path” to reduce their energy usage through efficiency efforts, Williams told Breaking Energy after the study was released this week.

“There is a lot at stake” in energy efficiency efforts, Williams said, but a limited understanding in the energy industry community of what the public awareness and willingness surrounding energy efficiency is.

Although Americans are often perceived as universally unwilling to pay more for energy efficiency, 34% of US respondents to the Harris survey said they would make more room in their budget for energy efficiency efforts. A significant two-thirds said they were willing to make behavioral changes like using their energy-intensive devices at different times to conserve energy.

Technology Lends A Helping Hand

The biggest obstacle to widespread consumer, industrial and commercial adoption of energy efficient technologies remains the up-front sticker shock, Williams said.

There is little understanding of the longer-term benefits in energy cost savings, many of which can exceed the initial higher cost of the equipment investment in less than a year.

The rapid development of new technologies on a number of fronts is improving access and bringing down costs, Williams said, citing falling prices for LED lighting and solar panels. Increased availability works hand-in-hand with efforts to expand smart grid to the broader public in the US and elsewhere; as monitoring by smart grid devices increases pricing transparency, the benefit of efficient electrical devices will become self-apparent to consumers.

Back To School

Education of both the installers that use products sold by Rexel and the broader public about energy efficiency and energy efficient technologies is the point of both the study and Rexel’s public-information website on energy efficiency.

“This survey shows that we are moving towards a new energy model, says Chris Hartmann, CEO of Rexel Holdings USA. “As market leader, Rexel is particularly involved in accelerating change through innovative solutions and education that informs our clients how to adopt eco-efficient solutions.”

“It is also important for people to know that energy efficiency is not a one size fits all approach. Everybody can do their part even on the smallest level by simply upgrading to energy efficient light bulbs, but Americans should know that there are solutions available to accommodate varying levels of budget and energy objectives.”

Rexel, which is listed on the Paris stock exchange, is active in 36 countries and its mix of customer types breaks down as 43% commercial, 32% industrial and 25% residential.

For more on energy efficiency efforts, see Kateri Callahan’s post on energy efficiency as a bipartisan issue, and watch this video on energy savings created by efficiency and monitoring technology at a US ambassador’s residence.