UppSol 2020

Increasing the rate of photovoltaic installations in the region

STUNS – the Foundation for Collaboration between the Universities in Uppsala, Business, and the Public Sector – serves as a connection between academia and industry and facilitates the establishment of spin-off businesses from the universities. The project UppSol 2020 is carried out in collaboration between STUNS, Uppsala county administrative board and other regional organisations in the Uppsala region. UppSol 2020 is one of several projects where STUNS have applied the same method to achieve end user engagement and installation of energy efficient technology. The project ended in the beginning of 2015.

The main aim of UppSol 2020 was to increase the rate of photovoltaic (PV) installations in the region by disseminating experiences from one representative stakeholder (a so-called forerunner) to a group of followers by organizing a number of PV test beds. Each test bed involved a series of three workshops; one each for the planning phase, execution phase and follow-up. The idea was that a number of followers – the same type of stakeholder as the forerunner – would follow the entire installation process from procurement to deployment and monitoring to secure systematic dissemination of experiences. The process aims to give a true picture of the real situation, providing actual insights to the installation of PV, both the positive and negative sides of it. The stakeholder groups involved in UppSol 2020 were housing associations, municipalities and property owners. There have also been test beds presenting PV solutions with battery storage and PV installations on flat roofs. 

A group of approximately 15-20 followers were invited to each workshop series to follow the installation of PV at the forerunner’s premises. The workshops both contained knowledge-raising activities and activities where the forerunner would present experiences and results, as well as provide answers to questions. The workshops were organized by STUNS in collaboration with the forerunner. At the workshops, STUNS contributed with know-how as independent experts on solar electricity. Every occasion included time slots for social interaction between participants, to provide an opportunity to discuss the topic and ask questions face-to-face. The goal of the forerunner/follower method is to raise the consciousness of the users, to show that if a forerunner within the same target group can do the installation, it should be manageable for others as well. The use of a forerunner from the target group in question is meant to instill security and informal authority.

A user-centric project approach

The project UppSol 2020 was not an explicit smart grid project, but was associated with a methodology to raise users’ confidence and procurement skills, and thereby increase the actual installation rate of new energy technologies. Moreover, it dealt with engaging and strengthening the user in a very concrete manner, which may be useful as input to the implementation process of other technological solutions associated with smart grids. At the core of STUNS business is a true customer focus, which is reflected in their projects. Thus, the users were the centre-piece of UppSol 2020, taking its starting point in the needs and conditions associated with the stakeholders involved. The whole idea of the project is to facilitate customer and user initiatives and provide them with information, experience and support, transferred from one customer to others within the same group of stakeholders. As STUNS works very close to users, they wanted to create forms for dissemination based on the users’ questions and conditions, and thereby disseminate experiences rather than only information within Uppsol 2020.

The project is a continuous learning process for all actors involved, including STUNS. It is experimental work based on close contact with users and the project team emphasizes the importance of understanding their true drivers and motivations. Within the project team, there is a common understanding of the importance of humbleness towards the users, to let the discussion be on non-technical issues and issues experienced as trivial or non-factual by an expert. The basic idea is that, since the users are the ones investing their money in the technical systems, their needs and thoughts must be the starting point of the project activities. 

Some apparent success factors of this project are its ability to work in the true context of users, getting very close to their situation and understanding the target groups. The project is based on the knowledge and experiences from the customers and users themselves. To succeed with such an approach, close and personal relations are crucial, which is not only enabled by the personal networks of contact, but also from the open and intimate setting of the process, involving a relatively small group of people. The local context is also an important success factor, especially when it comes to reaching users/stakeholders in smaller towns or villages. The project team makes sure to structure meetings from the participants’ point of view, which means that meetings are organized in the users’ context and the team travels to them, not the other way around. The local context is also affecting the forerunner - follower approach, as the followers are more likely to follow someone who resembles themselves and who acts in the same context.

Collaboration with S3C

The initial contact with the project was taken by the S3C team in autumn 2013. Due to vast experience with customer and user collaborations and customer focus, the UppSol 2020 project was engaged as a passive partner of the S3C project and provided information about their work and experience during the first meetings. Further, UppSol 2020 agreed to become an active partner following discussions on potential support from S3C to the project. The team was very interested in getting to know if their project was on track, if project goals would be met and the experience of project participants. In addition, capturing the development and learnings within the project team itself was perceived as interesting. Thus, two guidelines were created to support UppSol 2020 in these aspects, while a third guideline would bring structure to a workshop with the project reference group at the end of the project. Finally, the vast experience in STUNS regarding customer focus was considered a valuable asset, and the team was thereby asked to review an additional guideline from their perspective. 

The following guidelines were used in the collaboration with UppSol 2020:
Guideline: Co-creation - collaborating to develop smart energy solutions
Guideline: Learning about target groups
Guideline: How to improve you smart energy project through check-ups
Guideline: Self-assessment to create a reflecting team culture

Two of the guidelines ("How to improve your smart energy project through check-ups” and "Self-assessment to create a learning team culture”) were created by the S3C team to fit the needs of UppSol 2020. These guidelines were tested as part of an evaluation of the project. The activities from the guidelines supported the project by supplying information on user experience, that wouldn’t have been captured through other activities. The guideline "Learning about target groups” was reviewed by STUNS due to their knowledge on customer engagement and relations. The guideline on "Co-creation - collaborating to develop smart energy solutions” was planned for testing with UppSol 2020, to be used as a format for the final meeting with the project reference group. However, the character of this meeting changed during the course of the collaboration between UppSol 2020 and S3C, so the guideline could not be implemented for this occasion.

Further information

To find out more about the UppSol 2020 project, visit the STUNS Energi website.

Read an interview with Simon Strandberg, member of the UppSol 2020 team, on the collaboration with S3C

Visit the S3C Toolkit at: http://www.smartgrid-engagement-toolkit.eu/