Scaling up solar photovoltaic use: A system-oriented assessment of experiences gained in deployment

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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Abstract

The transition towards low-carbon energy systems undeniably requires a strong scale-up in the diffusion of renewable energy technologies globally. Given its theoretical and techno-economic potential, solar photovoltaics (PV) is considered an important option. The envisioned scale-up of the use of solar PV, however, requires an in-depth and system-oriented perspective on structures and processes related to deployment. Particularly, as deployment-related aspects critically determine the competitiveness of PV, they need to be more comprehensively understood in order to be purposefully managed through policy and business decisions.
Using an interdisciplinary, multi-level and system-oriented research approach, the analytical framework of this thesis draws on concepts from innovation system theory, network theory, business model theory, and the experience curve approach. Based on empirical examinations of the deployment experience in pioneering countries of distributed PV (primarily Germany, as well as the United States and Japan and, to some degree, other EU and OECD countries), the thesis aims to advance knowledge by providing a system-oriented perspective on deployment-related structures and processes.
Results show that PV deployment relies on the collaborative actions of and interactions between a multitude of actors, including solar firms, utilities, banks, governments, users, and non-profit initiatives. Furthermore, results show the creation, accumulation and transfer of a comprehensive knowledge base related to deployment, both from domestic and international viewpoints. This deployment knowledge involves multiple dimensions (technical, financial, legal-regulatory, quality assurance, marketing, etc.). Processes of local learning are found to be critical for the effective integration of PV technology into the physical, organizational and institutional infrastructures of distinct geographies. In fact, findings reveal that structures, processes and strategies related to PV deployment depend significantly on geographic, institutional and cultural context. Furthermore, results help in understanding the decline of soft deployment costs as a result of the accumulation of local experience in deployment. Generally, soft deployment costs include labour costs, permit and insurance fees, as well as a variety of transaction costs associated with business transactions and compliance with different legal-administrative requirements. The findings also portray how dedicated business strategies of solar firms can address barriers to the adoption of PV by private users.
The research outcomes exhibit several implications for the design of PV deployment policies. They highlight in particular the need for a holistic understanding of deployment systems as a knowledge foundation for more integrated policy approaches. Policies may be directed at demand creation, network formation, knowledge and awareness, streamlining of legal-administrative regulations, and a variety of other measures that contribute to the formation and further development of well-functioning local PV markets. The stronger inclusion of deployment-related aspects, as assessed in this thesis, into future policy assessment frameworks could support decision-making towards more integrated PV deployment policies.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor
Awarding Institution
  • Faculty of Engineering, LTH
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Neij, Lena, Supervisor
  • Mundaca, Luis, Supervisor
Award date2017 Nov 6
Place of PublicationLund
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-91-87357-30-5
Electronic ISBNs978-91-87357-31-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct 11

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2017-11-06
Time: 13:00
Place: Aula, The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), Tegnérsplatsen 4, Lund.
External reviewer(s)
Name: Kåberger, Tomas
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg
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Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Engineering and Technology

Keywords

  • photovoltaic, deployment, soft costs, barriers, experience curve, innovation system, business model, network analysis, knowledge

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