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WSP Energy Future Report: Electric Grid Reliability Worries Americans

WSP Energy Future Report: Electric Grid Reliability Worries Americans

A new WSP survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, reveals 79 percent of Americans are concerned about aging U.S. electric infrastructure; suggests wholehearted support for clean energy projects.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA — Americans are deeply concerned about the country’s aging electric power grid with 61 percent saying they would be willing to pay slightly more for electricity if it meant building a more reliable electric grid, according to the WSP Pulse on Energy report released today.

“There is no shortage of serious, complex issues vying for share of mind and wallet, so it’s significant that 79 percent of Americans say they are concerned about the electric grid, much of which was built in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Mike Case, Energy national business line executive and senior vice president at WSP in the U.S.

While common wisdom suggests there would be sharp regional differences of opinion, Case said the survey found that Americans are united on their views of the electric grid.

“When it comes to concerns about dependability, safety, affordability and climate impacts, there were no statistical differences between regions,” he added. “Across gender, race and ethnicity, household income, urbanicity, region and other factors, we found there is no sub-set of Americans who are unconcerned about these issues, which is a strong signal of support for more rapid grid modernization.”

Released in conjunction with the United Nations’ inaugural observance of International Day of Clean Energy on Jan. 26, WSP Pulse is aimed at highlighting current viewpoints among different segments of the American public.

Notable findings in the report highlight:

  • Broad support for clean energy projects. A striking 87 percent of Americans would be influenced to support energy projects if they promote reliable, sustainable and/or affordable electricity across the U.S. – even if those projects may not benefit them directly.
  • Public curiosity about the energy transition and eagerness to learn more. While nearly three quarters of Americans (74 percent) say they understand the need for clean energy transition, an even greater percentage (79 percent – nearly four out of five) are interested in learning more about plans for the energy transition in their community. 
  • Willingness to invest more money into a reliable grid. Even though a majority of Americans (81 percent) are at least somewhat worried about the cost of electricity, 61 percent are still willing to pay slightly more for electricity if it provides a more reliable energy source. 

“Modernizing the grid to deliver electricity more reliably and efficiently can greatly reduce the frequency and duration of power outages, and gaining stakeholder support is one of the key steps to advance energy projects that increase transmission capacity and untap energy from new sources,” Case said.

He added that through this survey, WSP is providing insight into priorities and concerns of people around the country. “This will enable more effective engagement with communities supporting our clients to reach bold decarbonization goals and move swiftly towards FutureReady® solutions for a more equitable, healthy, inclusive and sustainable world,” Case said.

To meet federal climate targets, it is estimated the U.S. will need to triple its current transmission capacity within 20 years. Yet, it can take a decade or more to develop transmission projects in each state. There are several additional challenges, including:

  • public support from local communities,
  • buy-in from landowners and environmental groups,
  • financing,
  • the need for a large labor force in a tight market, and
  • permitting and approval from regulators.

Additional insights from WSP Pulse include the finding that nearly 80 percent of poll participants want to learn more about plans for energy transition within their own communities, suggesting opportunities for public education and involvement on the topic. Poll findings will help inform WSP’s approaches in supporting our clients’ energy development plans.

Click here to download the full WSP Pulse on Energy report.

About the WSP Pulse on Energy Report

WSP Pulse is based on a survey conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of WSP from Dec. 12-14, 2023, among 2,061 adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/-2.7 percentage points using a 95 percent confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, email usinfo@wsp.com

About WSP in the U.S.

WSP USA is the U.S. operating company of WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering, environment and professional services firms. Recognized in 2023 on TIME’s list of the world’s best companies and Fortune’s Change the World list, WSP is driving social impact and commitment to ESG. WSP in the U.S. brings together engineers, planners, technical experts, strategic advisors and construction management professionals who are dedicated to collaborate in the best interests of serving local communities. WSP designs lasting solutions in the buildings, transportation, energy, water and environment markets. With approximately 14,000 employees in 300 offices across the U.S., WSP partners with its clients to help communities prosper. wsp.com