Researchers at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) in Belgium have investigated barriers to residential PV adoption and how circular business models may or may not address the top four barriers: the cost of upfront capital expenditures, a lack of trust in governments, waiting for improved technologies, and a perceived lack of profitability.
In the paper, “When do circular business models resolve barriers to residential solar PV adoption? Evidence from survey data in Flanders,” published in Energy Policy, the scientists acknowledged the problem with end-of-life PV waste and noted the need for sustainable approaches to solar adoption. The researchers examined how circular business models – specifically solar product-service system (PSS) models and PV reuse – could address the waste problem while overcoming barriers to adoption.
A survey of 3,996 households in Flanders, Belgium, found that the circular business models presented would only address the cost barrier.
Survey respondents were asked about their interest in a use-oriented PSS model. It consists of solar leasing with a transfer of ownership after 20 years, which is the dominant PSS model for the residential solar market in Flanders. “For PV reuse, we surveyed customer interest in second-life PV panels in the context of a user-oriented PSS model, where the operation of these panels would be guaranteed by the supplier,” the researchers said.
Researchers determined that a high interest in PSS models is found significantly more frequent among female respondents, and respondents living in houses with a flat roof, an older dwelling, having experience as a Netflix user, and having high trust rates in energy suppliers and technology. Those with a high interest in PSS were more likely to favor the removal of the PV panels at the end of the contract period, as they did not want to be stuck with a technology that was 20 years old.
“Note that the user experience of Netflix differs from Spotify and car lease,” the research group stressed. “Unlike Netflix, Spotify is also accessible for users who do not pay, and respondents who have experience with car lease often did not have to pay themselves for the lease program.”
A lower interest in PSS models was found among male respondents and those who live in recently built houses. “Having no interest in solar PSS is found to be related with respondents who are a member of a renewable energy citizen cooperative, living in houses with a good roof quality, having no Netflix subscription, and low trust rates in the Green political party,” the researchers stated.
For those who are interested in PSS, regulatory uncertainties and not knowing anyone else in a PSS model act as barriers to choosing this option. To counter these barriers, the study’s authors recommend that policymakers develop energy policies showing complementarity across multiple policy levels and domains and provide legal certainty for households to invest in renewable energy solutions.
The researchers cautioned that while most policies that support PV adoption are focused on houses, policymakers should recognize the increase in people living in “collective housing settings” such as apartment buildings, and who did not own their place of residence.
“Given the increasing waste problem that stems from solar PV investments, policymakers and service providers should collaborate to design future-proof, sustainable, and incentive-compatible contractual regulations enhancing improved recycling, remanufacturing, repair, and reuse, substantiated by policy research,” the academics concluded.
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