Consumers look to generate their own electricity

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Power to the people.

Recent concerns over spiralling energy costs and power cuts are prompting US consumers to investigate the feasibility of back-up generators to guarantee continuity of supply, a new report claimed today.

Findings from a recent consumer survey conducted by IDC's Energy Insights reveal a "growth spurt" in so-called 'distributed energy' technology.

Of the 1,119 US consumers surveyed, one in two are interested in acquiring back-up generation for their primary residence in the next two years.

Almost the same number expressed interest in base-load generation, i.e. on-site equipment to provide all the power for the home on a regular basis.

'Distributed energy' refers to technologies that enable consumers to generate electrical power at their homes, and typically allow for surplus power to be sold back into the electricity power grid.

"US households purchased a record 1.7 million back-up generators from April 2005 to March 2006 for their primary residences," said Nick Lenssen, programme director for distributed and renewable energy at IDC Energy Insights.

"Given homeowners' anxiety due to many weather-related outages, particularly those in the south eastern US recently, it is no surprise that consumers are seeking more reliable power for their increasingly energy-dependent homes."

When asked to identify the top three reasons for acquiring base-load generation equipment, survey respondents cited 'worries about outages or blackouts' as number one.

'Saving money on energy bills' (67 per cent) and 'independence from electric utility' (40 per cent) ranked second and third respectively.

Despite consumers' outage anxieties, the survey revealed that only seven per cent of US households have an on-site generator, most of which are portable models used exclusively during power outages which need to be manually started.

"With current usage low and interest so high, we are on the precipice of a major spike in this market," said Lenssen.

"We forecast a potential market of roughly 52 million homes as moderate prospects for buying residential back-up generation equipment in the next few years."
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