Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
This paper examines the extent and drivers of social contagion in the adoption of solar panels
Increasing the use of renewable energy is central to address climate change. Recent research has suggested the existence of social contagion in the adoption of solar panels, which may contribute to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Social contagion can be described as the phenomenon in which the adoption of a given behavior or technology by a group of individuals is causally driven by the fact that another group of individuals, usually sharing the same geographical space, adopted the same behavior or technology. While the existing literature has focused on residential adoption only, we extend the analysis to private firms and farms, and include solar panels with different characteristics. In this research, e exploit a unique large dataset providing detailed information on about 60,000 solar installations in Switzerland, including their specific location at the street level and details on the timing of the technological adoption, and couple it with rich socioeconomic data at the municipality level. Our detailed data allow us to adopt an empirical strategy that tackles some common issues with measuring social contagion, and thus allow us to provide causal evidence. We find that households’ decisions to adopt the solar technology are dependent on pre-existing adoption, and in particular on spatially close and recent installations. We hence confirm the existence of social contagion in the adoption of solar PV. We also find that firms and farms solar PV adoptions also react to neighboring PV panels, although in a lesser extent than households. Hence, we show for the first time that social contagion works also for private companies. Furthermore, companies are more influenced by panels installed by other companies, compared to panels installed by households. By distinguishing between building-integrated and building-attached PV systems, two different types of solar panels, and including capacity categories, we provide evidence that both learning and imitation are important components of social contagion. To deliver this result, we exploit the fact that building-integrated PV systems are on average much more visible than building-attached PV systems, as building-integrated PV systems can be used also on facades or steep roofs. Our findings provide new insights on the mechanisms of social contagion and how they could be leveraged with targeted interventions, for instance by facilitating learning and by making all installations more visible.
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to illuminate the spatio-temporal diffusion of rooftop household photovoltaic installations in Germany and to test whether localized imitation drives their adoption. Our study is based on a unique data set of some 576,000 household photovoltaic systems installed in Germany through 2009. We employ an epidemic diffusion model which includes a spatial dimension, and control for temporal and spatial heterogeneity. According to our results, imitative adoption behavior is highly localized and an important factor for the diffusion of household photovoltaic systems.
Pub.: 16 Feb '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: This paper analyzes the drivers of carbon taxes acceptability with survey data and a randomized labeling treatment. Based on a sample of more than 300 individuals, it assesses the effect on acceptability of specific policy designs and individuals’ perceptions of carbon taxes advantages and disadvantages. We find that the lack of perception of primary and ancillary benefits is one of the main barriers to the acceptability of carbon taxes. In addition, policy design matters for acceptability and in particular earmarking fiscal revenues for environmental purposes can lead to larger support. We also find an effect of labeling, comparing the wording “climate contribution” with “carbon tax”. We argue that proper policy design coupled with effective communication on the effects of carbon taxes may lead to a substantial improvement in acceptability.
Pub.: 24 Feb '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Carbon pricing is a recurrent theme in debates on climate policy. Discarded at the 2009 COP in Copenhagen, it remained part of deliberations for a climate agreement in subsequent years. As there is still much misunderstanding about the many reasons to implement a global carbon price, ideological resistance against it prospers. Here, we present the main arguments for carbon pricing, to stimulate a fair and well-informed discussion about it. These include considerations that have received little attention so far. We stress that a main reason to use carbon pricing is environmental effectiveness at a relatively low cost, which in turn contributes to enhance social and political acceptability of climate policy. This includes the property that corrected prices stimulate rapid environmental innovations. These arguments are underappreciated in the public debate, where pricing is frequently downplayed and the erroneous view that innovation policies are sufficient is widespread. Carbon pricing and technology policies are, though, largely complementary and thus are both needed for effective climate policy. We also comment on the complementarity of other instruments to carbon pricing. We further discuss distributional consequences of carbon pricing and present suggestions on how to address these. Other political economy issues that receive attention are lobbying, co-benefits, international policy coordination, motivational crowding in/out, and long-term commitment. The overview ends with reflections on implementing a global carbon price, whether through a carbon tax or emissions trading. The discussion goes beyond traditional arguments from environmental economics by including relevant insights from energy research and innovation studies as well.For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
Pub.: 31 Mar '17, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
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