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Diffusion of dynamic innovations: A case study of residential solar PV systems
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5617-1912
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the literature on diffusion of innovations, it is widely known that the characteristics and socio-environmental settings of adopters do evolve in space and time. What about innovations themselves? During the diffusion process, don’t some innovations continuously alter in space and time? If so, how does the dynamic character of an innovation influence the diffusion process? In previous research, it has been often assumed that innovations do not continuously alter or get modified when diffusing from a source to potential adopters. This assumption may mean that the innovation is invariant as it diffuses in time and space—i.e., the innovation does not have a continuously dynamic character. Is it always the case in practice?   

A single form of an innovation is not always necessarily compatible with the preferences, limitations, and residential settings of adopters. The innovation might appear in different forms when it diffuses in space and time, i.e., it is “dynamic”. This PhD thesis aims to explore how dynamic innovations diffuse in space and time—a relatively understudied topic in research. In doing so, it distinguishes between the diffusion of dynamic innovations and other kinds of innovations. Anchored on the case of diffusion of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, this thesis is composed of a cover essay and six appended papers. The first two appended papers are systematic literature reviews, aiming at understanding the state of the art of the theoretical and contextual research domains. The third paper is based on a case study in southern Germany and explores the diffusion of a dynamic innovation at adopter level. The fourth paper is empirically focused on a local firm’s business model, which is assumed to be a key to understanding the mechanism behind the diffusion of dynamic innovations. The fifth paper is based on lead market hypothesis and tries to explore the diffusion of innovations at the regional level. The sixth paper studies a semi-hypothetical case and offers an innovative method to forecast the diffusion of innovations in general.

The contribution of this PhD thesis lies in three research dimensions: context, method, and theory. Firstly, the thesis takes the existing theories (e.g., diffusion of innovations theory and lead market hypothesis) and methods (e.g., case study) and applies them in different contexts of the diffusion of residential solar PV systems: the individual, sub-national, and national level. Secondly, it proposes a new research method, namely the finite element method for forecasting the diffusion of innovations, based on an existing theory (e.g., wave-like diffusion of innovations in time and space) and context (e.g., solar PV systems). Last but not least, the cover essay of this thesis takes the findings of the appended papers and employs an extension of theory of diffusion of innovations. In doing so, it includes the role of the dynamic characteristic of innovations that do alter in time and space during the diffusion process.

Overall, the findings of this thesis indicate that the diffusion of dynamic innovations is different in nature, and continuous efforts of change agents are critical for enhancing the diffusion of such innovations. Change agents are especially important to help potential adopters to find out and develop the form of innovation that best fits their needs, limits, and preferences, which are heterogeneous in space and time. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sweden: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , xiii, 71 p.
Series
TRITA-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2015:09
Keyword [en]
Dynamic innovations, diffusion, residential solar, photovoltaics, time, space
National Category
Economics and Business Sociology
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-177020ISBN: 978-91-7595-763-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-177020DiVA: diva2:869864
Public defence
2015-12-11, E2, Lindstedtsvägen 3, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
European Doctorate in Industrial Management
Note

QC 20151117

Available from: 2015-11-17 Created: 2015-11-13 Last updated: 2016-02-15Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Diffusion of eco-innovations: A review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diffusion of eco-innovations: A review
2014 (English)In: Renewable & sustainable energy reviews, ISSN 1364-0321, E-ISSN 1879-0690, Vol. 33, no May, 392-399 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Literature in the field of eco-innovations often focuses on policy, regulations, technology, market and firm specific factors rather than diffusion. However, understanding of diffusion of eco-innovations recently has gained more importance given the fact that some eco-innovations are already at a mature stage. This paper aims to clarify the concept of diffusion of eco-innovation and provide a current overview of this emerging literature. Within this review framework, we identify the most cited relevant publications and corresponding research streams. We also describe the strengths and limitations of these research streams in the concept of diffusion of eco-innovations. The results summarize insights from different research streams in different disciplines and outline an entry point for researchers new to the emerging field of diffusion of eco-innovations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014
Keyword
Eco-innovations, Diffusion, Innovation studies, Review
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-142487 (URN)10.1016/j.rser.2014.01.083 (DOI)000335423900037 ()2-s2.0-84897756551 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150626

Available from: 2014-03-05 Created: 2014-03-05 Last updated: 2017-06-13Bibliographically approved
2. 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
3. Motivators for adoption of photovoltaic systems at grid parity: A case study from Southern Germany
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Motivators for adoption of photovoltaic systems at grid parity: A case study from Southern Germany
2015 (English)In: Renewable & sustainable energy reviews, ISSN 1364-0321, E-ISSN 1879-0690, Vol. 43, 1090-1098 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In some countries, photovoltaic (PV) technology is at a stage of development at which it can compete with conventional electricity sources in terms of electricity generation costs, i.e., grid parity. A case in point is Germany, where the PV market has reached a mature stage, the policy support has scaled down and the diffusion rate of PV systems has declined. This development raises a fundamental question: what are the motives to adopt PV systems at grid parity? The point of departure for the relevant literature has been on the impact of policy support, adopters and, recently, local solar companies. However, less attention has been paid to the motivators for adoption at grid parity. This paper presents an in-depth analysis of the diffusion of PV systems, explaining the impact of policy measures, adopters and system suppliers. Anchored in an extensive and exploratory case study in Germany, we provide a context-specific explanation to the motivations to adopt PV systems at grid parity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015
Keyword
Deployment, Grid parity, Innovation, Micro generation, Policy, Solar
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-157789 (URN)10.1016/j.rser.2014.11.077 (DOI)000348880600085 ()2-s2.0-84919667492 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150310

Available from: 2014-12-16 Created: 2014-12-16 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
4. Business model challenge: Lessons from a local solar company
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Business model challenge: Lessons from a local solar company
2016 (English)In: Renewable energy, ISSN 0960-1481, E-ISSN 1879-0682, Vol. 85, 1026-1035 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Solar photovoltaic systems are considered vital renewable energy sources for mitigating climate change and reducing dependency on fossil fuels. However, in some countries, the diffusion rate of photovoltaic systems is decreasing. A case in point is Germany, the country with the highest installed capacity of photovoltaic systems. Given the new conditions in the German market, the diffusion rate continuously declined in both 2012 and 2013. Whether the diffusion rate will again take off is not known. While the recent literature has pointed out that local solar companies have a vital driving role in diffusion, not many studies have yet discussed the business models and challenges such local companies may have. Through an extensive case study, this paper explores the business model of a local solar company in a town of 43,000 habitants in Southern Germany. The case of this company tells about an important business model challenge. Overcoming such challenges may not only let the company survive but also drive the diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in the region. The results include implications for both industrial actors and policymakers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016
Keyword
Diffusion, Innovation, Solar photovoltaics, Business model, Renewable energy, Product life cycle
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-171866 (URN)10.1016/j.renene.2015.07.069 (DOI)000363344800101 ()2-s2.0-84938351504 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150810

Available from: 2015-08-08 Created: 2015-08-08 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
5. Lead markets at sub-national level
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Lead markets at sub-national level
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The literature on lead markets has long argued that the global diffusion of innovations is often driven by country-specific attributes of a lead country. However, less attention has been paid to the sub-national level. Can region-specific attributes of a lead region drive the national diffusion? The paper takes the lead market model and applies it in a sub-national context.  Based on spatiotemporal data and an extensive case study on diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in Germany, this paper identifies the presence of both lead and lag markets at the sub-national level. Our findings indicate that the lead market model of the international diffusion of innovations is also applicable in a national context. 

Keyword
Lead market, deployment, innovation, adoption, renewable energy
National Category
Economics and Business Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176850 (URN)
Note

QS 2015

Available from: 2015-11-10 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2015-11-17Bibliographically approved
6. Finite Element Method for Forecasting the Diffusion of Photovoltaic Systems: Why and How?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Finite Element Method for Forecasting the Diffusion of Photovoltaic Systems: Why and How?
2016 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 163, 464-475 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The Finite Element Method (FEM) has been used in the broad field of continuum mechanics in engineering disciplines for several decades. However, recently, some scholars have attempted to apply the method to social science phenomena. What is the scope of using FEM in social science-related fields?  Anchored in the literature on social sciences, this paper, firstly, reviews the scope of using FEM in social science phenomena, and then applies FEM to a semi-hypothetical case study on the diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in southern Germany.  By doing so, the paper aims to shed light on why and how the Finite Element Method can be used to forecast the diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in time and space. Unlike conventional models used in diffusion literature, the computational model considers spatial heterogeneity. The model is based on a partial differential equation that describes the diffusion ratio of photovoltaic systems in a given region over time. The results of the application show that the FEM constitutes a powerful tool by which to study the diffusion of an innovation as a simultaneous space-time process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016
Keyword
Innovation, Adoption, Spatiotemporal, Simulation, FEM, Renewable energy
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Economics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176848 (URN)10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.10.188 (DOI)000369204500041 ()2-s2.0-84949008980 (Scopus ID)
Note

Updated from "Manuscript" to "Article". QC 20160126. QC 20160304

Available from: 2015-11-10 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2017-11-30Bibliographically approved

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