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The transition towards solar power; business as usual or a new role for incumbent grid operators?
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2748-7993
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics.
2018 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, there has been a steady increase of ‘solar prosumers’, i.e. electricity consumers that have become producers of electricity using small scale solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems. In several countries, this development is underpinned by various policy enticement schemes with the goal of mitigating climate change in addition to the individual motivations of the prosumers including the attainment of self-sufficiency and independence from conventional electricity supply. For the continued expansion of solar PV systems, grid operators – also called distribution system operators (DSOs) – have been identified as key intermediary actors for the development and implementation of new services and business models that help balance variable surplus electricity from solar prosumers and facilitate a continued expansion of solar PV systems. However, the operations of DSOs are tightly regulated and the room of manoeuvre of DSOs is limited. At the same time, electricity grids are not equipped to handle the expansion of variable and distributed energy resources. Are DSOs currently transitioning into a new widened role in electric power systems which facilitates continued increase in solar prosumers? Or are they hindered by their path dependency and the stability of current socio-technical systems in which they are embedded? Based on an empirical study of the Swedish energy system, this paper presents a description of the socio-technical electricity distribution system and current developments and system tensions from the point-of-view of DSOs in Sweden. The paper builds on a dataset of 175 local and regional DSOs together with semi-structured interviews with eight DSOs in Sweden. The results show that path dependency of DSOs is a major factor and as such the transition of the role of local DSOs is likely to be a slow process. Despite ongoing discussions on the changing role of DSOs in Sweden, so far it has resulted in few concrete measures and DSOs typically apply a business-as-usual approach towards challenges with expansion of solar PVs, i.e. investing in increased transmission capacity. A changed role for DSOs could have the effect of more efficient expansion of distributed solar PV systems if it underpins DSOs’ abilities to develop new system services. But such a change in role is hindered by current institutional settings as well as a lack in capacities and capabilities to develop new system services among a majority of the DSOs. To speed up the transition of local DSOs would require changes in current legislations together with efforts to stimulate innovation and learning processes of DSOs within current electricity systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-233751OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-233751DiVA, id: diva2:1242366
Conference
9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference, Manchester, UK
Funder
Swedish Energy Agency, 44638-1
Note

QC 20180903

Available from: 2018-08-28 Created: 2018-08-28 Last updated: 2018-09-03Bibliographically approved

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