Influence of Trust Concerns and Benefits of Visibility on Participation in Green Electricity Programs: a Case-Study of Residential Solar-PV Systems in Ontario
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This study examines two of the reasons that prevent people from taking part in green electricity programs: trust concerns that these programs may raise, and lack of benefits that come with visibility of participants’ involvement. While the current literature takes notice of their influence, in this study it was decided to investigate both factors in more detail. In particular, with the help of a survey, the study focused on the reactions of electricity consumers to the proposition of participation in green electricity programs in a controlled setting, in which levels of trust concerns raised and benefits of visibility provided by the programs could be varied. The study was conducted in Oakville, an affluent southern Ontario (Canada) suburb. The results are based on 160 received responses to 500 questionnaires that were sent out by mail. While the results of this study point towards the conclusion that both factors have an influence on participation in green electricity programs, their relative strength cannot be estimated by these results. One can, however, claim that the combined influence of trust concerns and benefits of visibility is quite strong. This research shows that at a 95% confidence level, willingness to participate in a program that proposes paying premium for electricity from solar panels installed on a participant’s roof (low trust concerns, high benefits of visibility) is 30% + 19.3% higher than willingness to participate in a program that proposes paying premium for electricity from undisclosed solar farms (high trust concerns, low benefits of visibility). Additional data about trust concerns, appreciation of benefits of visibility, and concerns about installation of solar panels on one’s own roof, provided by the survey, are also presented in the text. In conclusion, it is recommended that future research should more clearly separate the strength of influence of trust concerns from the influence of benefits of visibility on green electricity program participation. It is also important to study which features of these programs make them more trustworthy and visible. An important implication of this study for policy makers and green electricity proponents is to concentrate on allaying trust concerns, and enhancing benefits of visibility when designing policies or drafting plans for green electricity programs. The creation of an independent green electricity program certification system and a greater accent on the local presence of such programs is suggested.