From consumer to prosumer. Enrolling users into a Norwegian PV pilot
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Recent years have brought a shift in the discourse on the role of end users in the energy systems throughout Europe. A central aspect of this is a focus on prosumers; customers not only buying electricity, but producing and selling locally produced electricity back to the grid. This paper takes a closer look at the status of prosumers as they are enrolled by a local Norwegian utility into a solar PV pilot. Combined with an escalating focus on digital technologies across the energy system, the idea of the prosumer has opened for much experimentation with socio-technical solutions including novel business models. A shift is occurring from traditional, one-way centralized energy provision to a model of distributed energy production flowing bi-directionally. This paper is an in-depth look into a socio-technical innovation process of this kind, tracking implementation of solar PV in a Norwegian pilot project. We study in detail key situations in the production of the pilot, including marketing campaigns meant to attract prospective users, as well as the applications prospective users submit in order to become eligible for participation. This dynamic constitutes a sort of dual translation, where the power company attempts to enroll customers, while prospective customers attempt to enroll the power company. We also study the moment of installation of PV panels in households, by observing the encounter between installer and customer. This is a potentially critical moment of translation and interactive learning, and where a careful selection of strategies to engage consumers and transform them into prosumers is vital for the success of the pilot. We combine this approach with studies of the user experiences. How do the users domesticate and engage with the PV system, and what is it like to be transformed into the new concept of prosumer?