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Title: Renewable energy technologies and their users : the case of solar photovoltaic technology
Authors: Abi Ghanem, Dana
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: 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.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

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