The global turbine company Vestas has announced the findings of a new wind power study that shows a strong consumer sentiment in favor of products manufactured with wind energy. The study was commissioned by Vestas so the results are not particularly surprising, but they do point to a broader trend in which consumers are beginning to view energy as a diversified commodity rather than a monolithic service.
The distinction is important because under the service model, consumers have no choice over the type of energy is delivered to them. In the commodities model consumers can decide between renewable and non-renewable energy, and their choices can exert a powerful influence on the energy marketplace.
Off-grid energy and consumer choice
Consumers in the U.S. are already beginning to flex their muscles when it comes to the kind of energy delivered to their homes. One way they are doing that is by installing their own off-grid renewable energy generating equipment, in the form of micro wind turbines and rooftop solar power.
That avenue has its limitations, depending on the property owner's financial resources and the suitability of the property as a small-scale renewable energy site. A more expansive approach is offered by utilities that provide consumers with the opportunity to purchase energy through the grid from renewable sources, for a modest premium over the cost of fossil fuels.
Taking energy choice up to the next level
From this experience of choice in personal energy use, consumers appear to be making a seamless transition to the choice of energy used to manufacture the products they buy.
In the 2012 survey, 62 percent of respondents said the would be "more willing to buy products from brands using wind energy."
The figure of 62 percent is a pretty impressive result, considering that only 17 percent of the respondents listed climate change as the "single greatest challenge in the world today."
Almost half the respondents (49 percent) also said they would be willing to pay more for brands that use wind energy in their manufacturing level. That's another impressive result considering that in the same survey, the global financial crisis was the single most important challenge identified by the largest group of respondents.
Labeling for wind power
All this is by way of encouraging manufacturers to use more wind power, and to use it as a marketing tool, too.
Vestas also has a new study out addressing this end of the market, this one using data from the Corporate Renewable Energy Index Report 2012 (CREX). A product of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, CREX compiles information on the voluntary use of renewable energy by companies.
According to data drawn from CREX, there is a strong trend toward companies making voluntary investments in renewable energy, including the installation of onsite renewable energy generating facilities.
Here in the U.S., companies like Mom's Best are already putting wind power front and center in their promotional toolkit in order to make their products stand out from the pack.
If things keep going the way the Vestas studies indicate, it looks like manufacturers that use no renewable energy at all will be left out in the cold when it comes to this marketing opportunity.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.