In the energy sector, the end-user role is changing from passive consumer to active co-provider with decentralized technologies. This enables new forms of collaboration and active engagement with technology. This thesis examines energy prosumers’ active engagement with renewable micro-generation technologies and draws from and contributes primarily to research on energy consumption, social shaping of technology, and user innovation research. Based on 52 interviews and ethnography on large Finnish online forums conducted during years 2011-2012, this study addresses the following question: What kind of forms of active energy usership emerge with renewable micro-generation?
The key findings demonstrate how homeowners have an evolutionary approach in building and configuring residential energy systems. The trust in new small-scale renewable energy technologies is built gradually and capacity is scaled up along with accumulating trust. New micro-generation technologies tend to become supporting sources besides existing technology and the use of one renewable technology easily leads to the use of other renewable sources later on. The concept of ‘domestication pathways’ describes this phenomenon. Furthermore, the findings reveal the emergence of new types of energy communities. Traditionally, community energy has been seen as local activity. However, user-run online forums play key role by providing advanced peer support and demonstrate how community energy can take highly dispersed structure and virtual form. These Internet communities support both domestication of micro-generation technology and creative user projects, which range from do-it-yourself copy systems to new inventions spreading out in various ways. The study charted user inventions in heat pump and wood pellet burning systems and found 192 inventions or modifications that improved either efficiency, suitability, usability, maintenance, or price of the micro-generation systems.
The gradual development of domestic energy systems should be recognized in energy policy. Flexibility to adapt to changes is an important factor and it fosters sustainable development pathways for housing energy systems and proliferation of renewable energy generation in households. Regulatory actions can open the existing lock-ins and support hybridization of the systems and the use of various renewable energy sources. Consequently, for the manufacturers hybridization points towards increased importance of modularity and multi-purposing of micro-generation products.
Available here: https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/handle/123456789/14143
Keywords: user innovation; technology domestication; micro-generation; renewable energy
Juntunen, J. K. (2014). Prosuming energy – User innovation and new energy communities in renewable micro-generation (p. 182). Helsinki, Finland: Doctoral dissertation, Aalto University, Department of Management Studies.