The solar industry is growing, but so far it is mainly men with an interest and knowledge in technology who buy solar panels. Why is this the case and how can more customer groups be involved? We use norm-critical analysis and service design to understand how norms connected to gender, technology, and market affect the solar industry today.
The UN SDG 5 is about gender equality, stating that "Gender equality is achieved when women, men, girls and boys have equal rights, conditions and opportunities, and the power to shape their own lives and contribute to the development of society. It is a matter of equitable distribution of power, influence and resources in society." (UN, 2015). One sub-goal is to use technology to empower women. Goal 7 points to the need for sustainable energy for all.
Despite a strong development of the solar industry in Sweden – which is of course positive in the pursuit of a renewable energy system – the solar industry (as well as the energy industry in general) is still heavily male-dominated in both development and installation, as well as among customers (IEA, 2020).
In this project, we look at how to increase the long-term social sustainability of solar energy and broaden the solar power deployment in Sweden by increasing the proportion of female house owners who invest in solar power. More customer groups need to be included in the long term to reach the goal of 100% renewable electricity production in Sweden by 2040 and to make more people feel involved in the energy transition that is now underway. This applies to many different groups in society, but in our project we have chosen to focus on women who live in private houses without solar power installed today. Our starting point is: what would solar products and services look like if they were designed based on the needs and desires of female homeowners?
We use methods from service design and norm creative innovation to identify current norms around technology, gender and market, and to identify opportunities for the solar industry to better reach out to and support women solar customers. To find out what the solar industry looks like today and what norms the industry consciously or unconsciously adheres to, we conduct interviews with companies and organizations in the solar industry and related industries. In spring 2021, we interviewed a total of 10 female and male participants, representing the full range from one-man businesses to global corporations.
The project also uses focus groups with women from our target group to find out their needs and thoughts on solar power. The results of both interviews and focus groups form the basis for further development of so-called customer journeys that show both weak points and opportunities in the "journey" from interest to installed solar panels.
The results of the project will include customer journeys with design concepts for products and/or services that put the target group in focus. We will also develop a digital material that can be easily disseminated within the solar industry. The project is primarily aimed at the various actors in the solar industry, with the aim of increasing the industry's ability to reach out to women solar customers. As in previous, similar projects (we are inspired for example by the YCC concept car by Volvo Cars), starting from the needs and requirements of a specific target group can result in innovative solutions that in practice not only benefit the specific target group but also a broader group of people.
Co-funders in the project are Trä- och Möbelföretagen (TMF), Solcellskollen, WSP, Derome Hus, IBC SOLAR, and Innovatum. In addition to these actors, four additional companies have contributed with their time by participating in an interview and workshop for the project.
Sun for everyone