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System- and actor-level challenges for diffusion of renewable electricity technologies: an international comparison
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Project Innovations and Entrepreneurship. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Project Innovations and Entrepreneurship. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1952-902X
2016 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 128, no SI, 105-115 p.Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

Abstract It has become increasingly clear that a transition to low-carbon energy systems, including a widespread diffusion of renewable energy technologies (RETs), is necessary for the world to handle the challenges of climate change. Previous innovation system oriented research has identified barriers to development and early-stage diffusion of RETs, but more research is needed to understand what kind of institutional frameworks and governance tools are needed to achieve effective large-scale diffusion at a stage when technologies are commercially available and new demand-side actors become involved. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to identify the main challenges faced by adopters of renewable electricity technologies under different institutional frameworks as well as their strategies for overcoming them. Results based on a qualitative multiple case study of 28 adopters in France and in Sweden show that adopters were faced with system-level challenges, such as market-structure obstacles and lack of institutional routines, as well as actor-level challenges, such as lack of resources or behavioral characteristics. The study also highlights the difference between blocking and restraining challenges and proposes that barriers are better thought of as challenges that can be overcome. It shows the importance for policy makers to consider not only system-level diffusion challenges, but also to understand actor-level contexts, including the behaviors of adopters who contribute to the transition. A further understanding how new entrants have managed to overcome existing challenges may provide new policy tools to facilitate the adoption for new adopters, for instance by encouraging the use of networks or by supplying specific information to potential adopters who lack it.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 128, no SI, 105-115 p.
Keyword [en]
Diffusion, Challenges, Renewable energy technology, System-level, Actor-level, Policy
National Category
Environmental Management Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics Environmental Biotechnology Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-128256DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.09.048ISI: 000378568800009OAI: diva2:930407

Funding agencies.The funding support of the Swedish Energy Agency (Grant 33685-1 Project New investors in renewable electricity production) is gratefully acknowledged.

Available from: 2016-05-24 Created: 2016-05-24 Last updated: 2016-09-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Inducing large-scale diffusion of innovation: An integrated actor- and system-level approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Inducing large-scale diffusion of innovation: An integrated actor- and system-level approach
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In order for the innovation process to be successful, not only do innovations need to be developed and reached the market, but, once they are available for users, they have to spread on a large scale. In the innovation literature, a complete explanation is lacking of why some innovations reach a phase of large-scale diffusion faster than others, including both actor- and system-level components. For instance, what drives and hinders adopters to decide to adopt the innovation on the actor and system levels, and how adopters who participate in the largescale diffusion handle the adoption process and the implementation of the innovation, are questions still unanswered. As a consequence, it remains unclear how the large-scale diffusion process can be facilitated and speeded up.

This thesis addresses these issues by studying the case of renewable electricity (RE) innovations. After decades of technology development and improvements, RE innovations are now mature enough to be bought off-the-shelf by individuals and organizations. Yet, the pace of their large-scale diffusion is still too slow for countries to reach their RE generation targets and to limit global warming.

Through qualitative and quantitative methods including 59 semi-structured interviews with adopters, project developers and experts in Sweden, France and Germany as well as a survey sent to the whole population of RE adopters in Sweden, an adopter perspective is taken in order to explore the adoption dynamics shaping large-scale diffusion of innovation. More specifically, the thesis identifies the drivers and challenges of adoption during large-scale diffusion and their impact on adoption decisions and strategies. The outcome of this work is presented in a compiling synthesis and six appended papers.

Findings show that adopters are heterogeneous with regard to their characteristics, as well as to the drivers, challenges and strategies that affect their adoption processes. Depending on their perceptions, some adopters are more influenced by drivers and challenges than others and, as a consequence, adopters base their adoption decisions on different motives and follow different strategies to implement the innovation.

Moreover, the results suggest that the dynamics that occur during the large-scale diffusion process does not only come from the actor level and the level of the system where the largescale diffusion takes place, but also from parallel systems, which are related to adopters and their contexts, including both the social networks and the industries they primarily belong. This makes adopters the central drivers of the innovation diffusion process and this distinguishes the dynamics of large-scale diffusion from the dynamics of innovation development and early diffusion, in which the innovation is the central component.

Based on the findings about the adoption dynamics shaping large-scale diffusion, the thesis raises the need to consider large-scale diffusion as part of a new system, different from the innovation system and that acknowledges the specificities of this process. A tentative model accounting for the central role of adopters and for the interactions between adopters, the diffusion system and parallel systems is introduced.

Finally, the implications of these findings for policy makers and managers are put forward. In particular, there is a need for policies acknowledging adopters’ heterogeneity as well as the new challenges of large-scale diffusion. Strategies developed by adopters can be a source of inspiration for policy-makers, who can for instance promote the use of intermediaries, of adopters’ task environment and networks, as well as the formation of coalitions among adopters.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. 51 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1777
Innovation, large-scale diffusion, adopters, actor, system, drivers, challenges, motives, strategies, policies, renewable electricity, technology, intermediaries
National Category
Business Administration Energy Engineering Energy Systems Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-131029 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-131029 (DOI)9789176857328 (Print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-10-07, ACAS, A-huset, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2016-09-06 Created: 2016-09-06 Last updated: 2016-09-06Bibliographically approved

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