Looking beyond incentives: the role of champions in the social acceptance of residential solar energy in regional Australian communities

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Abstract

Research into renewable energy adoption is increasingly identifying that the successful implementation of renewable energy projects is influenced by a combination of market, community and socio-political acceptance of renewable energy technology. This research uses case studies in two regional Australian communities to examine the social acceptance of residential solar energy, in particular under the influence of financial incentives and social interactions. Fifty-five semi-structured interviews with members of the local community, industry and government were undertaken between May and October 2015. Respondents were asked about their perceptions and knowledge of solar energy and incentives to support its adoption, and their interactions with actors important in the diffusion process. Responses indicated that financial incentives motivated solar adoption; however, social interactions in the communities also contributed to decision-making. In one case study, a local “solar champion” built a private solar farm to demonstrate the technical feasibility of solar, assisted community members with physically installing their own systems and helped community members to maximise the financial benefits of their solar installations. This solar champion contributed to this community having an earlier and more rapid rate of small-scale solar adoption compared with the second case study community. The second case study community included two individuals interested in promoting solar energy; however, they were less integrated with the community’s process of adopting solar, resulting in community members experiencing substandard installations and consequent distrust of the solar industry. This research concludes that local context influences solar adoption through complex interactions among market, community and socio-political acceptance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-143
Number of pages17
JournalLocal Environment: the international journal of justice and sustainability
Volume23
Issue number2
Early online date18 Oct 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

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solar energy
incentive
acceptance
community
market
industry
energy
renewable energy
decision making
farm
interaction
energy technology

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title = "Looking beyond incentives: the role of champions in the social acceptance of residential solar energy in regional Australian communities",
abstract = "Research into renewable energy adoption is increasingly identifying that the successful implementation of renewable energy projects is influenced by a combination of market, community and socio-political acceptance of renewable energy technology. This research uses case studies in two regional Australian communities to examine the social acceptance of residential solar energy, in particular under the influence of financial incentives and social interactions. Fifty-five semi-structured interviews with members of the local community, industry and government were undertaken between May and October 2015. Respondents were asked about their perceptions and knowledge of solar energy and incentives to support its adoption, and their interactions with actors important in the diffusion process. Responses indicated that financial incentives motivated solar adoption; however, social interactions in the communities also contributed to decision-making. In one case study, a local “solar champion” built a private solar farm to demonstrate the technical feasibility of solar, assisted community members with physically installing their own systems and helped community members to maximise the financial benefits of their solar installations. This solar champion contributed to this community having an earlier and more rapid rate of small-scale solar adoption compared with the second case study community. The second case study community included two individuals interested in promoting solar energy; however, they were less integrated with the community’s process of adopting solar, resulting in community members experiencing substandard installations and consequent distrust of the solar industry. This research concludes that local context influences solar adoption through complex interactions among market, community and socio-political acceptance.",
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