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Abstract

*The increasing attention received by environmental problems in general and by global warming in particular reignites the debate around the sustainability of energy sources and renewable energy technologies. Renewable energies (RE) are considered one of the most effective and least risky solutions to curb greenhouse gas emissions. By providing emission-free and sustainable energy, these energies are main alternatives to fossil fuels. Yet, notwithstanding the advantages and the fact that they have experienced a substantial growth over the last decade, RE market penetration still remains below the levels judged necessary to effectively curb C02 emissions. Increasing RE penetration requires therefore that concerned actors such as RE companies and policy makers develop a more thorough understanding of the factors that affect the RE diffusion process. To that end, in this study we adopt a new technology diffusion perspective to shed further light on the factors that may hamper or accelerate the diffusion of a specific type of RE: photovoltaic systems (PV). We especially discuss and examine the impact of the following factors: i) the type and amount of PV-related information acquired by potential adopters; ii) the perceived economic value of PV; iii) the role of technological uncertainty and iv) the degree of competition in the PV market. We put forth a conceptual model of PV diffusion and we test it using primary data obtained through a survey of the actual and the potential clients of a large European utility that also sells PV systems. We used a set of logit models to estimate the impact of the above factors on the probability of adopting a PV system and we examined possible second order and interaction effects between these factors. The analysis provides interesting insights, particularly with respect to the role of information and the process through which it is acquired by potential adopters. Most importantly, the results indicate that information acquired through personal contacts (e.g. by visiting stores or talking to friends and colleagues) has a much greater impact on the probability of adoption than information filtered by other types of media (e.g. obtained from the web). This indirectly stresses the key role played by retailers, who guarantee a face-to-face contact with potential customers. Second, our results show that, contrary to expectations, increasing the number of market competitors decreases the probability of adoption, possibly because potential adopters defer their adoption decision when the number of available alternatives increases beyond a certain limit. Interestingly, we also note that the impact of perceived economic value and technological uncertainty is not significant, as if PV systems had already reached a minimum level of cost competitiveness and technological maturity. Altogether, our results indicate that - in addition to focusing on improving technological effectiveness and reducing system cost, RE providers should pay a lot of attention to the way they organize their distribution channels and to how they design their marketing campaigns. *The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Qatar National Research Fund (project n. NPRP 5 - 873 - 5 - 133

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarf.2013.EESP-016
2013-11-20
2020-02-22
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