Millennials: The Generation Pressuring for Sustainable Energy
America’s generations have ranging perceptions about a multitude of topics - especially energy. Much has been said about millennials, the first generation to come "of age" in the new millennium, but their voices have significant impact on business decisions. There is a growing concern within their ranks about the condition of the world, in particular, the ramifications of electric energy production on the planet.
A motivational trifecta of environmental sensitivity, practicality, and affordability is driving consumers and businesses to find ways to utilize more renewables and expand energy management practices. Deloitte’s Resources 2020 report highlights the increasing influence of millennials aged 21-38, the largest and most dominant consumer group, as a dynamic force behind the shift to cleaner sources of energy – inspired by the desire to reduce their personal carbon footprints.
Millennials and the following generation, Generation Z (Gen Z), are actively demonstrating that they have the will, knowledge, and capacity to promote lasting positive change for our environment more than all other generations before them. Their consumer behavior and lifestyle choices differ from those of previous generations in a variety of ways, especially as it relates to the importance they place on sustainability and “green living.” 3 in 4 Millennials and Gen Z’s are willing to pay extra for sustainable product offerings and “for those willing to pay more, environmentally friendly and social value are top purchase drivers,” according to the Nielsen Sustainability Imperative.
Eighty-six percent of millennials believe the government should be active in setting a vision and path for driving U.S. energy strategy, compared with 80 percent of Gen X, 76 percent of baby boomers and 63 percent of matures.
Although there is a growing willingness amongst all consumers to pay a surcharge on their electric bills for developing sources of renewable energy – the highest support was among millennials and lowest favorability was among matures.
Forty-six percent of millennials were extremely interested in purchasing a share in a utility-scale solar installation that would allow them to meet some or all of their energy needs.
In our colleges and universities, the call for implementing sustainable values is being heard as well. Students are leading successful movements urging their administrative leaders to divest from fossil fuels. Educational institutions make up 14 percent of the approximate $5.42 trillion value of institutions around the world that have divested from the fossil fuel industry. 600 colleges and universities are already members of the Climate Leadership Network, a network of institutions committed to action plans to achieve carbon-neutrality in the coming future. But, for some students, these commitments mean nothing if their schools are still buying stock in fossil fuels, even if the financial impact to the industry is slim.
These young, educated students will be joining the workforce and begin to push their employers to be more sustainable, just like they pushed their colleges and universities. Not only will companies have to meet consumer demand for environmentally responsible products, but they will also have to attract and maintain their younger workforce with sustainable operations. 47% of Millennials responded that it is important for them to work for a company with sustainability and/or climate goals, compared to 33% of Gen X, 21% of Baby Boomers, and 32% of Matures. Additionally, the top three groups of stakeholders pressuring businesses to address climate risk are their employees, board members, and customers. We already see it with the Millennial generation, and we can expect Gen Z to follow suit in their career choices. Organizations that are not actively setting and achieving sustainability goals will have a harder time finding individuals to fill their offices.
“We have now reached a tipping point for corporate sector demand for renewables. Fueled by shareholder and consumer activism, the opportunity to hedge power costs and corporate renewable targets, companies are increasingly making the connection between a specific project and a specific facility’s power demand.”
said Anna Shpitsberg, director, global power and renewables, IHS Markit. Business decision makers have seen the influence of passionate individuals and are now answering the collective call for better energy management. Not only does this satisfy their most important stakeholders, it also helps them keep operating costs low. Sourcing renewable energy is a win-win for companies attempting to keep their people and bank accounts happy.
In order to thrive, today’s energy sector should engage its youngest customers – which happen to be America’s most tech-savvy, environmentally conscious generation. Attempts to garner support for fossil fuel would be like Sony trying to sell Millennials Walkmans in 2021. More and more, young people are making important energy decisions – as building managers, homeowners, engineers, utility regulators, and, one day, the next head of the Department of Energy. Paying attention to their demands will lead the industry to sustainable value for following generations.