Last semester, myself and several colleagues (including our classmate Chris Smith) conducted a survey of 111 of our fellow LBJ students in order to better understand the knowledge and opinions surrounding Austin Energy’s policies and programs. Before going any further, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of our work. Given the small sample size and relatively homogeneous population (in terms of educational background and overall demographics), it may be difficult to draw many meaningful conclusions. Having said that, our survey indicated that respondents have an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards renewable energy.
· 86.8% of respondents would pay more on their electric bill if they knew this contributed to higher renewable or clean energy sources
· When asked what concerns them most about Austin Energy’s current energy generation mix, 70.0% replied “the amount of clean energy within the generation mix”, while only 23.0% were most concerned with cost, and 7.0% responded “reliability of service”
· 71.8% of respondents would like to see more solar power in Austin Energy’s current resource plan
Among the programs that we inquired about was Austin Energy’s photovoltaic (PV) rebate program. This program is widely considered the most aggressive renewable energy rebate program in the nation. The rebate pays out at a rate of $4.50/W or $5.60/W depending upon whether the PV is made locally within the Austin electric service area. For comparison’s sake, Oncor which serves much of northern Texas is only offering a rebate of $2.46/W.  Given the program’s reputation among those in the renewable industry and the inherent bias of our sample, one would expect a high level of program awareness in our survey results. The results were quite surprising:
· Only 25.2% of all respondents were familiar with Austin Energy’s rebate programs on energy efficient technologies or energy conservation programs
Strikingly similar results were found when controlling for variables such as land ownership, environmental coursework, and average utility bill cost. Thus, even the respondents most likely to be aware of Austin Energy’s PV rebate program were “in the dark”.
Again, the results of our survey do not necessarily hold true for the population of Austin as a whole. However given the attitudes of the respondents toward renewables, the strength of Austin Energy’s PV rebate program and the lack of awareness of that program, the potential for much PV expansion may exist.
 Austin Energy, Power Saver Program: Solar PV Rebate. Online. Available: http://www.austinenergy.com/Energy%20Efficiency/Programs/Rebates/Solar%20Rebates/solarRebateGuidelines.pdf. Accessed: February 12, 2009.
 DSIRE, Texas - Oncor Electric Delivery - Photovoltaic (PV) Incentive Program. Online. Available: http://www.dsireusa.org/library/includes/summtabsrch.cfm?Incentive_Code=TX68F&Back=fintab&state=TX&type=Rebate&CurrentPageID=7&EE=1&RE=1. Accessed: February 12, 2009.