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From Passive to Active About Solar Electricity: Innovation Decision Process and Photovoltaic Interest Generation

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Kaplan, A. W.


Technovation, p.19- (1999)



Electric utility managers are accustomed to technology choices, both in day-to-day load dispatching decisions and in the selection of new innovations to support utility operations. Conventional innovation management decision models may no longer apply in a confusing world of resource scarcity and industry deregulation. This research addresses the implications of a likely scenario: utilities will inevitably shift to a renewable base for electricity generation. How will managers become interested in solar energy? Does the conventional adoption decision model provide a solid foundation for understanding the factors that influence their interest? This study suggests not. Building on a national survey of utility managers in the US, a path analysis demonstrates the inadequacy of technical knowledge as a sufficient precursor to adoption interest. Three additional variables-motivation, experience, and familiarity-are offered as critical influences of interest in photovoltaics, the most ready innovation in the spectrum of renewable technologies. These findings have significant implications for commercialization efforts, as well as for management of utility operations. Through small wins, experimentation, and groping along, solar power can be diffused far more effectively and with far greater ultimate success than is expected through the conventional wisdom of large-scale research and development.