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Micropower in residential buildings - an analysis of customer preferences and business models

abstract One vision of future energy systems is based on an increasingly decentralized supply of electricity and heat in small-scale systems that are installed on the individual building level, which we refer to as micropower. Our understanding of micropower includes systems that provide electricity (such as photovoltaics), heat (such as wood pellet stoves, heat pumps, or solar thermal collectors) or both heat and electricity (micro-CHP, either based on natural gas or biomass). Our focus is on micropower systems that have lower environmental impact than incumbent technology, which tends to be oil heating and conventional electricity from the grid in most European countries. While the technological potential of micropower has been widely acknowledged and some policies are explicitly trying to support this market, the market adoption of micropower systems ultimately depends on customer decisions to buy them, and on adequate business models (Chesbrough and Rosenbloom 2002, Stähler 2001) for suppliers of micropower systems to successfully meet demand. Compared to other aspects of micropower, research on customer preferences and business models are two relatively underdeveloped streams of research. Our project uses a two-step approach to investigating customer preferences: In a first phase (which is the subject of this paper), we are using qualitative research methods (interviews and focus groups) to gain a comprehensive understanding of underlying attitudes and other factors influencing customers' buying decisions, while in a second phase, a quantitative survey (using conjoint analysis) will be conducted to assess the relative attractiveness of different systems. On the supply side of our research, we are investigating key aspects of successful business models.
Based on the findings of the first phase of our research, this paper aims at answering the following research questions:
• What are the attitudes, values and beliefs of Swiss residential customers towards various micropower systems?
• Which attributes of micropower systems are most relevant for customers’ buying decisions?
• Who else plays an important role in the decision process for or against micropower systems, and what are the most relevant sources of information for preparing buying decisions?
• What are promising target segments for marketing various micropower systems to Swiss consumers?
• What different types of business models for micropower can be identified in the micropower market (with an emphasis on solar thermal collectors) and how successful are they?
   
type conference paper (English)
   
keywords Sustainability; Distributed Energy; Innovation; Marketing; Business Model; Customer Preferences; Focus Group
   
project Micropower in residential buildings – An integrated analysis of consumer preferences, marketing strategies and emerging business models
name of conference IAEE International Conference (Potsdam)
date of conference 10-6-2006
title of proceedings Securing Energy in Insecure Times
publisher International Association for Energy Economics
review external review
   
citation Wüstenhagen, R., Boehnke, J., & Kaenzig, J. (2006). Micropower in residential buildings - an analysis of customer preferences and business models. In Securing Energy in Insecure Times: International Association for Energy Economics.