The raison d'être of diffusion intermediaries in solar and wind power in Sweden

University dissertation from ; Chalmers tekniska högskola; Gothenburg

Abstract: Renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power are now mature enough to be utilized as a means to build a sustainable energy system. Regardless, the diffusion of these technologies is not always a seamless process since it involves many actors and complex implementation procedures. Therefore, there is a need for actors that can facilitate the diffusion of these technologies. Diffusion intermediaries such as project developers can play a crucial role in this regard, by acting between input providers such as technology suppliers and adopters to facilitate the implementation of these technologies. This thesis scrutinizes the raison d'être (reason for being) of diffusion intermediaries by focusing on the activities of and value generation by solar and wind power diffusion intermediaries in Sweden. The thesis is based on qualitative methods, including a qualitative survey with semi-structured interviews of diffusion intermediaries in Sweden, a one-month longitudinal embedded case study of one solar PV intermediary in Sweden, and a longitudinal multiple case study of six large-scale projects. The results of these studies are presented in a compiled synthesis and three appended papers. The findings of these studies indicate that the raison d'être of diffusion intermediaries is to broker between at least two other parties in implementation projects. A literature review revealed that scholars do not always succeed in explicating the in-betweenness of intermediaries. By contrasting intermediation activities with other activities, it was possible to provide a more complete and nuanced understanding of the complex context that diffusion intermediaries are part of. The results reflect that diffusion intermediaries are, to some extent, involved in one-to-one activities that can be important in satisfying adopters’ needs. The results also revealed that value creation in implementation projects unfolds during the collaboration and that a potentially fruitful approach aims at focusing on value co-creation with adopters. It is also seen that it is possible to view intermediation as an iterative process consisting of both intermediation and other activities in different phases of implementation, which oftentimes starts and ends with non-intermediation activities. These results have several policy and managerial implications. Managers are recommended to focus on adapting their services to match the different needs of adopters. Policy makers should consider the multifaceted activities that diffusion intermediaries conduct in order to make seemingly complex implementation procedures appear simple and comprehensible to adopters. Future research can focus on additional deep longitudinal case studies of diffusion intermediaries to provide a more detailed understanding of the activities associated with brokering in different empirical contexts.

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