Community solar energy initiatives in urban energy transitions: A comparative study of Foshan, China and Seoul, South Korea

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Urban community solar energy initiatives have flourished around the world, suggesting that community energy can be an important pathway for energy transitions. The deployment of solar energy has however remained limited. The complexity of these community-level transition processes has not been well understood and conceptualised. By advancing studies on community energy and socio-technical energy transitions, this paper proposes an integrated framework to conceptualise community-level energy initiatives from a systemic perspective. The framework builds the linkages among five critical processes and their associated contexts and outcomes, and is applied in a comparative study of two cities in Asia: Foshan and Seoul. Based on 19 semi-structured interviews in the case cities, this study has three major findings. First, the two cities’ solarisation pathways exhibited similarities as well as differences that could be understood within our conceptual framework. Second, distinctive modes of community solarisation can be identified in the two cities. Foshan was a mixed mode which was characterised by a combination of top-down, state-led and entrepreneur-driven approaches, whereas Seoul developed a bottom-up grassroot-driven transition. Third, the actual impacts of community solarisation on regime shifts appeared to be very modest, but we identify important reinforcing effects between some processes and local contextual factors. This paper concludes that community energy can play an important role in urban energy transitions, but that sufficient policy attention must be given to complex interactions in the critical processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Community solar energy
  • South Korea
  • Urban socio-technical transitions


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