Renewable Energy Technologies and their Users: the case of solar photovoltaic technology.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In recent years, renewable energy technologies (RETs) have been increasingly
recognised among a range of solutions for addressing climate change and
reducing reliance on fossil fuels. However, their implementation in the UK has
been slower than expected, creating a gap between the potential of these
technologies and their actual deployment. Acknowledging the importance of
users in the diffusion of RETs, this thesis examines how these users are
conceptualised during RET implementation and use. Using theoretical
perspectives from science and technology studies, it analyses the configuration
of users during the design and implementation of photovoltaic systems, taking
as an example two case studies that took place as part of the UK government's
Photovoltaic Domestic Field Trial.
The study investigates the multiplicity of actors involved in the installation
projects and demonstrates the negotiated nature of photovoltaic system design.
During this process, the actors - the managers of the installation projects -
constructed user identities based on the users' perceived expectations,
preferences, behaviour and knowledge. These identities were materialised into
the design of the system, thus creating a script that shaped the use of the
technology. The study explored how the photovoltaics were appropriated
within the home, highlighting the different modes of use and types of users in
relation to the technology. In doing so, the thesis presents how the project
managers 'write' the technology, and how the technology is in turn 'read' by
the users. This perspective can be helpful in understanding the deployment of
RETs, as it stresses their socially shaped nature. It shows how the design of the
photovoltaic system was the result of a negotiated process of managers'
knowledge and expectations regarding the users, the users' methods of
appropriation, and the sociotechnical systems within which they operate. It also
argues for the importance of situating the use of photovoltaics. and other
related RETs in the domestic sector, within the wider sociotechnical landscape
governing household energy consumption.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Newcastle University
  • Vigar, Geoff, Supervisor, External person
  • Haggett, Claire, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Dec 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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