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Power to the people: Diffusion of renewable electricity in rural areas of developing countries
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.).
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Nearly all the 1.3 billion people in the world with no electricity access live in developing countries. On the one hand, electricity is a basic need. On the other hand, the environment should not be further damaged. Thus, sustainable electricity in developing countries is clearly needed. The aim of this dissertation is to analyse the mechanism of the diffusion and adoption of renewable electricity with particular focus on rural electrification among low-income inhabitants in developing countries. The dissertation is comprised of a cover essay and six appended papers with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods based on several means of data collection.

The first paper describes diffusion theory through a novel bibliometric tool. This novel method provides an overview, structure, and explanation of a large research area; complements a traditional literature review; and can be applied to any knowledge field. Here, the structure of the recent development of diffusion research, together with its application, are presented. With a specific focus on rural electrification among low-income inhabitants in developing countries, the diffusion framework is empirically applied with complementary concepts in the second, third, and fourth papers, based on three different cases. One case study investigates the adoption of electricity among rural inhabitants in Uganda and shows that a foreign company can be an important player in the rural electrification effort. Another case study addresses a large dissemination of photovoltaic systems provided by a local firm in Bangladesh and reveals that the diffusion of renewable energy can be effectively undertaken by a private local firm, rather than waiting for full government support or large multi-national corporations. The other case study discusses a small-scale diffusion of photovoltaic systems in a remote region in Thailand and presents an extreme case where full government support is necessary. In addition, through a systematic literature review, the barriers to adoption of photovoltaic systems are identified in the fifth paper, highlighting several remaining challenges. In the last paper, issues related to the transition to using photovoltaic systems in off-grid communities are discussed.

The diffusion mechanism of renewable electricity has been shown to be a highly complicated process, having several unforeseeable and context-specific factors. A technology with superior qualities does not diffuse by itself but requires tremendous effort and close collaboration on the part of stakeholders. There are complex relations, on the one hand, between technology and society and, on the other hand, between technology providers and adopters. No single, fast, or straightforward remedy can address the complex nature of diffusion of renewable electricity in rural communities. Therefore, understanding the local context is highly important, indicating the need for empirical investigation. This dissertation offers several contributions concerning methodological, theoretical, empirical, managerial and policy. It also provides implications that may be relevant for actors who attempt to introduce, disseminate, and manage new energy technologies in rural communities.

Abstract [sv]

Nästan alla av de 1,3 miljarder människor som inte har tillgång till el bor i utvecklingsländer. Å ena sidan är el ett grundläggande behov. Å andra sidan bör miljön inte skadas ytterligare. Det finns således ett behov av förnybar el i utvecklingsländer. Avhandlingens syfte är att analysera mekanismerna bakom diffusion och införande av förnybar el med särskilt fokus på elektrifiering av landsbygden bland låginkomsttagare i utvecklingsländer. Avhandlingen består av en kappa och sex bifogade artiklar som är baserade på en blandning av kvalitativa och kvantitativa metoder och innehåller flera olika typer av datainsamling.

Den första artikeln beskriver diffusionsteori genom ett nytt bibliometriskt verktyg. Denna nya metod ger översikt, struktur, och förklaring till ett stort forskningsområde; den kompletterar en mer traditionell litteraturöversikt och kan tillämpas oavsett kunskapsområde. Här presenteras strukturen av den senaste utvecklingen inom diffusionsteori tillsammans med dess applikationsområden. Med ett särskilt fokus på landsbygdselektrifiering bland låginkomsttagare i utvecklingsländer tillämpas diffusionsramverket empiriskt med kompletterande koncept i den andra, tredje, och fjärde artikeln. Dessa artiklar är baserade på tre olika fallstudier. En fallstudie berör elektrifiering på landsbygden i Uganda och visar att utländska företag kan vara en viktig aktör i denna process. En annan fallstudie tar upp spridning av solcellssystem i stor skala som utförs av ett lokalt företag i Bangladesh och visar att spridning av förnybar energi effektivt kan genomföras av privata lokala företag, snarare än att vänta på statligt stöd eller stora multinationella företag. Den sista fallstudien diskuterar småskalig spridning av solcellssystem i en avlägsen region i Thailand och representerar ett extremfall som behöver full finansiering från staten. I den femte artikeln har hindren för införandet av solcellssystem identifierats genom en systematisk litteraturöversikt, artikeln belyser också många kvarstående utmaningar. Den sista artikeln diskuterar frågor som rör övergången till, samt användandet av solcellssystem i områden som inte är anslutna till elnätet.

Diffusionsprocessen för förnybar el har visat sig vara mycket komplicerad med flera oförutsedda och kontextspecifika faktorer. Teknik med överlägsna egenskaper kan inte spridas av sig självt utan kräver stora ansträngningar och nära samarbete mellan de inblandade aktörerna. Det är komplexa relationer, å ena sidan mellan teknik och samhälle och å andra sidan mellan teknikleverantörer och användare. Det finns inte en perfekt, snabb eller enkel åtgärd för att ta itu med den komplexa karaktären av diffusion av förnybar el på landsbygden. Därför är förståelsen för den lokala kontexten av stor betydelse och detta understryker behovet av empiriska studier. Denna avhandling bidrar med kunskap som täcker områden som metodologi, teori, empiri, ledarskap och politik. Studien visar även på relevanta implikationer för de aktörer som försöker införa, sprida och hantera ny energiteknik till landsbygden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , vi, 43 p.
Series
TRITA-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2015:04
Keyword [en]
adoption, bibliometric, developing country, diffusion, photovoltaic, renewable energy, rural electrification, solar energy, sustainable development
Keyword [sv]
bibliometri, diffusion, förnybar energi, hållbar utveckling, införande, landsbygdselektrifiering, solceller, solenergi, utvecklingsland
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-166602ISBN: 978-91-7595-578-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-166602DiVA: diva2:811652
Public defence
2015-06-08, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20150518

Available from: 2015-05-18 Created: 2015-05-12 Last updated: 2015-08-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Large-scale bibliometric review of diffusion research
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Large-scale bibliometric review of diffusion research
2015 (English)In: Scientometrics, ISSN 0138-9130, E-ISSN 1588-2861, Vol. 102, no 2, 1615-1645 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Despite the fact that diffusion research has existed for more than a century, a quantitative review covering this subject in a broad and general context is still lacking. This article reviews diffusion research by providing an extensive bibliometric and clustering analysis. In total, we identified thirteen clusters comprising 6,811 publications over the period of 2002–2011, and thereby describe the characteristics of diffusion research in an extensive and general way based on quantitative bibliometric methods. The analysis reveals that diffusion research is highly interdisciplinary in character, involving several disciplines from ethnology to economics, with many overlapping research trails. The concluding section indicates that diffusion research seems to be data driven and relies heavily on solely empirical studies. Consequently, influential publications rely on empirical data that support and change theories in modest ways only. In this contribution, we propose a review method that produces a fairly good overview of the research area and which can be applied to any knowledge field to replace or complement the traditional literature review.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Netherlands, 2015
Keyword
Adoption, Cluster, Publication analysis, Quantitative, Technology transfer
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified Economics and Business
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-159289 (URN)10.1007/s11192-014-1448-7 (DOI)000348324000027 ()2-s2.0-84919618494 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150211

Available from: 2015-01-28 Created: 2015-01-28 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. Mini-grids and renewable energy in rural Africa: How diffusion theory explains adoption of electricity in Uganda
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mini-grids and renewable energy in rural Africa: How diffusion theory explains adoption of electricity in Uganda
2015 (English)In: Energy Research and Social Science, ISSN 2214-6296, Vol. 5, 45-54 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

With diffusion theory as the point of departure, this study analyses the factors that influence the adoption of renewable electricity from individual households’ perspectives. The analysis is based on a case study provided by a Swedish energy service company operating in rural Uganda. The company distributes electricity to rural households via a mini-grid powered by a biomass gasification system. Three critical dimensions are identified to be crucial for adoption: technical, economic, and social. First, there is an emphasis on the relative advantages of the new technology. Second, there are economic requirements regarding a viable financial system for adopters, especially in such a low-income market. Third, the social dimension is critical, particularly the importance of foreign firms collaborating with local actors. We further suggest that a lack of understanding of local communities can lead foreign companies to fail in diffusion attempts. While we focus on Uganda, the results of our research are highly relevant for foreign actors who attempt to penetrate rural markets in developing countries in general.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015
Keyword
Africa; biomass; household; low-income market; renewable energy; rural electrification
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-161216 (URN)10.1016/j.erss.2014.12.014 (DOI)2-s2.0-84923265058 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150313

Available from: 2015-03-10 Created: 2015-03-10 Last updated: 2017-01-11Bibliographically approved
3. Determinants of the diffusion of solar home systems: Case study among low-income inhabitants in Bangladesh
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Determinants of the diffusion of solar home systems: Case study among low-income inhabitants in Bangladesh
2015 (English)In: Energy and Environment, ISSN 0958-305X, E-ISSN 2048-4070, Vol. 26, no 5Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article discusses the determinants of technology diffusion among the low-income adopters, i.e. those belonging to the bottom of the pyramid market. Our aim is to analyse the variables that determine the adoption rate of Solar Home Systems. The analysis is drawn from a qualitative case study in Bangladesh based on interviews, observation and documents. We re-conceptualize diffusion process into three basic components: source, innovation and adopter. In particular, we focus on the characteristics of the source that are specific to the low-income market. In our case, the source is a social entrepreneur who seeks social wealth rather than economic wealth. Our empirical study may help to illuminate diffusion processes conducted by social entrepreneurs at the bottom of the pyramid because it contributes to a more comprehensive list of variables that affect the innovation adoption rate.

Keyword
bottom of the pyramid, photovoltaic system, rural electrification, social entrepreneur
National Category
Energy Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-166619 (URN)000362602000004 ()
Note

Updated from manuscript to article.

QC 20151104

Available from: 2015-05-12 Created: 2015-05-12 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
4. Diffusion of photovoltaic systems for rural electrification in Thailand
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diffusion of photovoltaic systems for rural electrification in Thailand
2013 (English)In: International Journal of Energy and Environment, ISSN 2076-2895, E-ISSN 2076-2909, Vol. 4, no 1, 49-58 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper studies a pilot project in which photovoltaic systems were installed in thirty-six places in the remote areas of Thailand with no access to electricity. One sub-project out of thirty-six was chosen for in-depth investigation. We discuss the appropriateness of solar energy for Thailand context. The diffusion process of PV systems is analyzed on four elements: innovation, communication channel, time and social system. This project is an extreme case as the PV systems and services were provided for free of charge. Even so, there are still some challenges to get acceptance for this sustainable form of energy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
International Energy & Environment Foundation, 2013
Keyword
Diffusion of innovation, Innovation, Photovoltaic, Rural, Thailand
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-109719 (URN)
Note

QC 20130626

Available from: 2013-01-08 Created: 2013-01-08 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
5. Barriers to the adoption of photovoltaic systems: The state of the art
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Barriers to the adoption of photovoltaic systems: The state of the art
2015 (English)In: Renewable & sustainable energy reviews, ISSN 1364-0321, E-ISSN 1879-0690, Vol. 49, 60-66 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Although photovoltaic (PV) systems have become much more competitive, the diffusion of PV systems still remains low in comparison to conventional energy sources. What are the current barriers hindering the diffusion of PV systems? In order to address this, we conducted an extensive and systematic literature review based on the Web of Science database. Our state-of-the-art review shows that, despite the rapid development and maturity of the technology during the past few years, the adoption of PV systems still faces several barriers. The wide adoption of PV systems—either as a substitute for other electricity power generation systems in urban areas or for rural electrification—is a challenging process. Our results show that the barriers are evident for both low- and high-income economies, encompassing four dimensions: sociotechnical, management, economic, and policy. Although the barriers vary across context, the lessons learned from one study can be valuable to others. The involvement of all stakeholders—adopters, local communities, firms, international organizations, financial institutions, and government—is crucial to foster the adoption.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015
Keyword
Diffusion, Innovation, Renewable, Solar energy, Solar home system
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-166603 (URN)10.1016/j.rser.2015.04.058 (DOI)000357141900007 ()2-s2.0-84929095689 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150518

Available from: 2015-05-12 Created: 2015-05-12 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
6. Transition towards off-grid photovoltaic systems: Is price the final answer?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Transition towards off-grid photovoltaic systems: Is price the final answer?
2014 (English)In: Energy Procedia, ISSN 1876-6102, E-ISSN 1876-6102, Vol. 57, 1546-1554 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There are 1.3 billion people living without electricity, a large portion of which is in the bottom of the economic pyramid. Rural electrification via photovoltaic systems is one possible solution to alleviate their poverty. The aim of this article is to qualitatively investigate the potential for the transition towards off-grid photovoltaic systems. Two interrelated aspects are specifically investigated: photovoltaic system price and relative advantages for rural adopters. It has been shown that apart from the price, there are other advantages that can motivate rural inhabitants to adopt photovoltaic systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014
Keyword
Advantage, Benefit, Cost, Diffusion, Economic, Incentive, Rural electrification
National Category
Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-158928 (URN)10.1016/j.egypro.2014.10.146 (DOI)000348253201076 ()2-s2.0-84922311053 (Scopus ID)
Conference
ISES Solar World Congress, Cancun, Mexico
Note

QC 20150223

Available from: 2015-01-14 Created: 2015-01-14 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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