Lead User and Socio-Technical Innovation: The Demonstration Application of Photovoltaic in Taiwan
The present study focuses on the first group of residential users who applied for the installation of photovoltaic systems and how they participate in socio-technical innovation. In terms of the research method, I utilizes in-depth interview, secondary literature analysis and field observations to explore the development history of photovoltaic demonstration applications. This article found that during the early stages of expansion of photovoltaic systems, a group of users not emphasized by the promoters actively included themselves in the development. Such users can be divided into the three following categories: (1) environmentalists who are highly sensitive to the world trend and environmental issues; (2) practical users who wish to connect renewable energy and independently generate energy; and (3) market pioneers who expect to benefit from the technology. Most importantly, this group of users also participated in the revision and improvement of photovoltaic systems: The key issue with the two-way smart meter resulted from the transformation of stand-alone system to grid-connected system were not anticipated by the engineers. On the contrary, it was first detected by residential users and then solved by coordinating with related actors. Lastly, this study pointed out that in the past, technological systems were driven by scientists, engineers, corporations and the government. However, from the participation of a group of users, the present study shows that lay users are not simply end-users who require enrollment, education and enlightenment. Rather, they may play a key role in the system establishment process. To sum up, in order to move toward the transition of the socio-technical system of renewable energy, I suggest that the promoters of the technology should integrate the experiences of the users and the participation of citizens into the technology to build a democratizing innovation design.