Consumer Barometer of Renewable Energy 2021: Ticino’s views and preferences on energy and the challenge of climate change

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Measuring the sensitivity of Swiss residents to the problem of climate change and possible solutions: it is the objective of the Consumer Barometer of Renewable Energy 2021, a study that the Chair of Renewable Energy Management at the University of St. Gallen carries out every year since 2011 in the German and French-speaking regions of Switzerland. It investigates, in particular, the level of concern, opinions on the most recently adopted energy and climate policies, the spread of new "green technologies", and so on. In 2021, for the first time, the Institute for Economic Research teamed up with researchers from the University of St. Gallen to replicate the analysis in Canton Ticino. We tackle the issue with Alessandra Motz, a researcher at the Institute for Economic Research (IRE) and head of energy analysis for the Public Finance and Energy Observatory (O-FPE).

How did you conduct the analysis?

The Barometer is based on a survey that was distributed on-line to a very large sample of people residing in Canton Ticino. The respondents were reached thanks to the help of four local electricity suppliers, AEM, AIL, AMB and SES, who kindly forwarded to their customers an invitation to fill-in the survey. As a result, between September and November 2021 we were able to collect 2’299 valid responses, ensuring a reasonable representativeness of the local population.

What are the attitudes of the residents in Ticino toward the issue of climate change?

According to our results, more than 65% of the respondents believe that climate change is already visible, and almost 90% think that fighting climate change in Switzerland and the rest of the world is a priority. 56% think moreover that the Swiss energy transition is too slow, whereas only 8% believe it is too fast.

These findings may seem surprising if compared to the results of the referendum held in June 2021, when the citizens of Switzerland and Ticino rejected the new CO2 Law and its measures to ensure the achievement of climate neutrality by 2050. The Barometer suggests however that in that case the citizens living in Ticino mainly focussed on the increases in the cost of flights and fuels introduced by the new CO2 Law, rather than on the refunds that would have been granted as a partial compensation through a rebate in the cost of the mandatory medical insurance. The concern for the expected cost increases - expressed by around two thirds of the sample - and the difficulty in actually evaluating their magnitude - expressed by the remaining third of the sample - most likely lie behind the result of the poll. More than 60% of the respondents state indeed that the rejection of the new CO2 Law was not a "no" to climate protection.

And what are the attitudes toward the new green technologies?

New technologies such as heat pumps, electric vehicles, photovoltaic panels, and batteries are crucial for the energy transition, as they allow the replacement of fossil fuels with electricity and an increase in the production and consumption of electricity of solar origin.

The adoption of these technology was slightly slower in Switzerland as compared to other European countries, but has been growing in the last few years. Homeowners increasingly consider investing in photovoltaic panels and batteries in order to contribute to environmental protection, increase self-consumption, and reduce their energy bill. Even tenants appreciate these facilities, as long as they don’t result in an increase in their monthly rent and fees. Moreover, 6% of the respondents own an electric vehicle, and 41% consider the purchase in the next 5 years, even if the availability of public charging stations is still regarded with some concern.

The interest in green technologies and policies is rather high. The residents of Ticino are eager to do their part as citizens and consumers: new green products and measures should thus be designed and introduced keeping an eye on social, political, and market acceptance.

The results of the Consumer Barometer for Ticino are available here: http://www.ofpe.usi.ch/en/energy. Those of the Consumer Barometer for the rest of Switzerland are available at: http://kuba.iwoe.unisg.ch/ .


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