As interns at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we’ve been tapped as resident experts on surviving on college budgets, social media, and all things Millennial. Research tells us Millennials are the largest living generation. So, as clean energy interns this summer, we’ve learned that gives us much power to change the game for the energy sector. But in unexpected ways.
As young people, we’re working at EDF because we want to promote systemic, market-based solutions and new technologies that shift our country toward clean energy and away from our fossil fuel past (did someone say solarpaint?).
We have high standards for our energy future, and our priorities differ from our parents’ (for example, millennials tend to value careers [PDF] over religious life). And although we’re the thriftiest generation, 64 percent of us are actually willing to pay more on our electric bill if it’s generated by clean energy.
Shifting the Economy
A generation that has been slow to invest, millennials are now buying stocks in companies that further the clean energy economy. Among millennials’ favorite stocks are companies like Apple and Facebook who declared their commitment to rely on 100 percent renewable energy through RE100. Others include Amazon, which launched four wind and solar farms in 2016 and publicly supported the Clean Power Plan; Tesla, which started selling solar panels this year; and Nvidia, which plans to reduce emissions by 15 percent per employee by 2020 and only operates in buildings that comply with LEED standards.
We like to put our money where our values are. Our generation is the most likely to pay more for responsibly made products and roughly 80 percent of us want to work for companies that care about their impacts. Nearly 400,000 millennials are currently working in green jobs.
For a variety of economic and social factors, our lifestyles tend to be more energy efficient. Many of us are choosing buses and bikes over cars. And we’re more likely to purchase new, energy-saving products and services like Nest learning thermostats than people over 55, according to research by Accenture.
“Energy providers must take these and other insights about these groups to heart, to unlock value, because consumers’ preferences and behaviors are rapidly changing the market landscape,” said Tony Masella, managing director of Accenture Energy Consumer Services.
Push-back Against Fossil Fuels
Students from hundreds of colleges and universities have led 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.
Our Advice: Don’t Sleep on Us
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 us Walkmans — futile. Appeal to our drive for progress and prosperity based on clean, equitable energy solutions. More and more, we are the ones making important energy decisions — as building managers, homeowners, engineers, utility regulators, and, one day, the next head of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Elizabeth Villedrouin is a Communications Intern, Clean Energy, and Kristen Moore is a Research Intern, Clean Energy, for the Environmental Defense Fund.
This article was originally published by the Environmental Defense Fund and was republished with permission.
Photo source: wundervisuals