The rate of adoption of an innovation is influenced by five factors: relative advantage compared to existing practice, compatibility with lifestyle and/or values, the complexity of the innovation, the trialability, allowing new adopters to test the innovation, and observability, in terms of how easily benefits derived from the innovation are viewed by the wider community. In the case of rooftop solar, the technology meets at least four of these factors, only really falling down on trialability: it lowers the cost of energy (relative advantage), doesn’t require lifestyle changes (compatibility), doesn’t require additional technical knowledge once it’s installed (complexity) and its benefits are easily seen by other members of the community (observability).
The aforementioned contributing factors to solar’s success (government rebates, higher cost of power and cheap Chinese systems) rely heavily on relative advantage and have got us to a point where the Early Adopters are taking it up with relish, but it hasn’t reached the Majority audiences. It has been argued that there exists a “chasm” between the Early Adopters and Early Majority taking up a new innovation. This is caused by differences in expectations by the two groups of the value of the innovation. It can be overcome through clear identification of target markets within the Early Majority, understanding how the innovations fits within the lives of the target markets and developing and implementing a strategy to ensure its uptake.
So, what might take us there? Do we keep doing the same things hoping they will work or is it time to look for something different? Importantly, for local government, what role might we play in enabling this step to the next level?