How digital intermediaries in Sweden support the diffusion of solar PV

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Sinclair Dahlström, Hanna
Lazaroo, Lucas
Transitioning towards the widespread use of sustainable energy systems is imperative if the world is to successfully mitigate the challenges posed by climate change. Solar energy offers the potential to reduce gas-house emissions, and Sweden has the potential to accelerate its proliferation among the residential population, who have showed an interest in adopting this energy solution. However, a significant knowledge gap exists among a majority of those interested, with 46 percent of Swedes stating that they are not well-informed enough to invest in solar PV. Moreover, research has highlighted informational barriers as a large challenge that potential solar PV adopters must to overcome. Digital middle-actors - also known as intermediaries - have the ability to help adopters overcome these infor mational issues by providing information to them in a setting widely available to many, i.e. the Internet. This thesis has posed three research questions which have all been answered. First, how do digital intermediaries support solar PV adopters and what support roles do they serve. Second, it has studied how digital intermediaries are structured to create, deliver and capture value. Lastly, what trade-offs exist in the business models of digital intermediaries. To enable this exploration, a qualitative cross case study was done by examining the business models of six digital intermediaries acting on the Swedish solar PV market. First, the findings showed that digital intermediaries primarily support solar PV adopters in the pre-decision and decision making phase of adopting solar PV technology, with one out of six interme diaries also providing some post-decision support. An example of what type of support is given are informational texts, interactive tools such as investment and solar production calculators, facilitating a connecting between adopters and solar PV suppliers as well as providing information about adopters’ responsibilities and information of suppliers’ installation performance. The roles these intermediaries take in order to provide these differing type of support is that of content providers or also match makers or (informal/formal) regulators. Second, the results show that digital intermediaries create value by providing the aforementioned type of support, and deliver it through their websites and in some cases also directly engaging with adopters through other means such as via phone conversations. Moreover, digital intermediaries can act as non-profit actors and are then either publicly or self funded, thus bypassing the need to capture value through through the support they provide. Alternatively, digital intermediaries can also operate on a for-profit model, and instead choose to solicit payments from a network of partnered solar PV suppliers when acting as match makers, or by extracting client fees from adopters who have already installed solar PV systems on their roof when acting as an informal regulator. Additionally, while all intermediaries were found to support residential adopters, match makers also catered to solar PV suppliers through their brokering services. Third, it is evident that regardless of being a for-profit or non-profit intermediary, provision of free content is expected if adopters are to engage with what they have to offer and something digital inter mediaries must offer regardless of how they choose to capture value. For non-profit intermediaries, their strength lies in the fact that they are publicly or self-funded which enhances the credibility in the content they provide. However, this also means that they are unable to guide adopters to specific solution providers. The reverse trade-off exists for for-profit intermediaries, who are able to help link adopters with specific suppliers. However, their neutrality is compromised because they are biased towards nudging adopters to use suppliers in their network of partners.
solar photovoltaics, diffusion, intermediaries, business models, cross-case study, adopter
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