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Statistically significant results

The national energy literacy survey

Ever taken an energy survey to test your knowledge as well as assess your attitudes toward energy specific topics? Would you pass if you did? The following is an overview and results of the first ever national energy literacy survey.

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Survey says

It's Time to Think, Talk, and Take Action!

In 2017, the National Energy Foundation (NEF) partnered with Cicero Social Impact, a prominent market research firm, to survey a demographically diverse sample of 2,005 high school students across the nation. The survey measured students’ attitudes, knowledge, and behavior regarding energy. In 2022, NEF commissioned a second survey with a sample of 1,564 high school seniors nationwide.

The results show that there has been a statistically significant drop in energy literacy among high school students in the United States. Simply put, our future workforce, voters, and energy consumers are not prepared for the energy transition. These results are a wake-up call to utilities, state energy offices, and other energy industry partners that it’s time to think, talk and take action!

3,500 +

Total students surveyed


Decline in Energy Attitudes

The National Survey asked questions to identify common attitudes and perceptions toward energy among high school seniors. Results indicated that, in the past five years, high school seniors’ “energy attitudes” declined by up to 14.6%. These results suggest that students know the importance of the energy transition but do not believe their actions can make a difference.

*Compared to 2017 Survey of 2,005 High School Seniors. 22 total attitudinal questions were asked.

15% Decrease*

“My efforts to conserve energy will have a positive impact on the environment.”

9% Decrease*

“I have a moral obligation to reduce my energy usage.”

8% Decrease*

“We need to develop more ways of producing renewable energy, even if that means energy will cost more.”


Testing Energy Concepts and Comprehension

Core Energy Topics

Participant knowledge was determined by asking students various questions that measured their understanding of different energy concepts. Overall, student knowledge declined by 6.4%. In contrast, the impact of social media continues to rise as young adults look to social media for energy information.

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Basic Energy Concepts
  • General definition of energy
  • Laws of energy
  • Energy transformation
Energy tradeoffs
  • Quality of life
  • Energy resource limitations
  • Energy development impact/constraints
Energy Use
  • Consumer energy usage
  • General energy consumption trends
  • Health and safety factors
Efficiency & Conservation
  • Impact of technology on energy
  • Impact of behavior
Sources & types of energy
  • Energy sources
  • Renewable versus nonrenewable
  • Types and forms of energy

Small Energy Wise Choices

Students answered various questions about their everyday actions and behaviors concerning energy. The results showcase that some students make small energy-wise choices but are less likely to engage in more impactful and expensive behaviors. For example, students will consciously turn off the lights when they leave a room but are less likely to purchase energy-efficient appliances and products.

*Compared to 2017 Survey of 2,005 High School Seniors

4% Decrease*

Turn off all lights before leaving a room

3% Decrease*

Encourage friends or family to be more energy efficient

7% Decrease*

Consciously choose to travel without a car (walk, bike, public transport, etc.)

5% Decrease*

Actively search for products that are more energy efficient

Primary audience

Why High School Seniors?

High school seniors were the target demographic for this study because of their recent K-12 educational experience. In addition, these young adults are moving into a new era of life where they are now election voters, energy consumers, and workforce entrants.

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What can we do?

Let's Prepare Students for the Energy Transition, Together!

While energy literacy rates have dropped, many students are concerned with energy efficiency, resources, and conservation. The interest is there, but the connection between interest, attitudes, and behavior change is missing. As the energy transition rapidly evolves, it’s more important now than ever to continue providing students of all ages and their families with the information they need to prepare for a cleaner energy future.

Let’s work together to improve the attitudes, knowledge, and behavior of our future voters, energy consumers, and workforce. Contact NEF to schedule a time to discuss your energy literacy and community engagement goals.

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