01 September 2017

Consumer preferences for BIPV

The public defense of the doctoral thesis presented by Hans Christoph Curtius took place on September 1st 2017 at the University of St. Gallen (HSG). Conducted under the supervision of Prof. Rolf Wuestenhagen (HSG), this research focuses on the diffusion of solar photovoltaics, in particular consumer preferences, peer effects and implications for clean energy marketing. It was realized in the framework of the ACTIVE INTERFACES interdisciplinary research project carried out within the PNR 70 of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which aims to develop new strategies for the implementation of BIPV in urban renewal processes.
This doctoral thesis identifies and examines factors that determine the adoption of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the built environment in general, and of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) in particular. Accordingly, it contributes to promoting the widespread diffusion of these technologies which can help decarbonize electricity generation, and thus respond to the challenges of climate change. 
The cumulated dissertation consists of three papers and an introductory section. The first paper identifies product-specific, adopter-specific and institutional barriers to and facilitators of BIPV adoption based on qualitative semi-structured interviews. The second paper focuses on the consumer preferences of homeowners with regard to a number of product-specific characteristics of (BI)PV and examines their willingness to pay for these. In the third paper, peer effects are examined and thus the questions whether, why and how behavioral factors influence the decision to adopt PV. The second and third paper are both based on a large quantitative survey, using inter alia adaptive choice-based conjoint (ACBC) method. 
The most important determinants of PV adoption are found to be the complexity of the product, the size and calculation of initial and life-cycle costs, aesthetic issues (including the color of the modules), awareness among relevant stakeholders, the country of origin of the modules, and the design of government incentives. Furthermore, peer effects in form of two types of social norms, descriptive and injunctive norms, and their underlying interaction play an important role in explaining decisions related to PV adoption. The findings have significant implications for policy and marketing. Policymakers should consider facilitating the creation of regional hotspots to induce peer effects, disclosing returns from feed-in tariffs transparently over an aggregated time frame, and striving to include (BI)PV in building codes or labels. As for marketing, offering turn-key solar roofs would help overcome the complexity involved in BIPV-related decision-making, and “Solarize campaigns” can utilize the power of peer effects for a facilitated diffusion of PV within local communities.