Consumer knowledge key for solar adoption in Saudi Arabia

A new research paper urges the Saudi Arabian government to improve consumer knowledge of renewable energy to encourage the adoption of solar by domestic consumers.

A study investigating factors that could encourage or inhibit the adoption of solar among home-owning Saudi consumers says that a lack of consumer knowledge is “the major obstacle” to further deployment.

The research team says Saudi Arabia’s history of investment in fossil fuels, combined with its immense solar potential, position it as a developing investment powerhouse and investment hub. Its membership in the G20 summit of leading economies also makes the country an “important test case as regards the adoption or not of new renewable technology,” according to the report. 

Their investigation drew upon the theory of planned behaviour, a theory that links beliefs to behaviours, to consider the factors influencing the adoption of renewables. They also examined demographic variables – gender, age, education level, monthly household income and household family size – on consumer attitudes towards renewables through a self-administered online questionnaire, which generated 415 valid responses.

The researchers used a two-stage structural equation modelling analysis to examine their data. They found consumers lacking knowledge of renewables tend to have a negative intention to adopt them, leading to their conclusion that a lack of knowledge is a “considerable barrier”. The researchers say their work is distinguished from previous studies as their original data on Saudi consumers’ lack of knowledge of renewables makes it clear it is a barrier to further adoption.

The researchers also found that consumers’ environmental beliefs might not lead directly to the intention to adopt renewables, even when associated with favorable attitudes toward the technology.

“This, again, may reflect limited knowledge of renewables among Saudi consumers,” said the research paper.

When considering the results across demographics, the researchers found that younger respondents were more likely to have plans to adopt renewables than older individuals. Similarly, those with higher education had a more positive response. In contrast, responses across the three income levels were “fairly consistent.”

The research paper says social influence might be crucial when promoting solar adoption among Saudi consumers. The researchers found social influence is likely to be a critical factor, particularly as Saudi Arabia’s population largely comprises extended families, tribes and close-knit communities where opinions are often significantly shaped and determined. It concludes that these are essential considerations for policymakers to note and act on when constructing energy policy.

“The data suggest that when governments and businesses seek to stimulate behavioral change among consumers, aiming to move toward a ‘net-zero’ economy, they must be cognisant of the level of awareness and knowledge among the consumers of the new renewable energy technology,” the researchers wrote. “Based on our data, Saudi policymakers would be well advised to provide public information and education regarding this new technology and, when targeting the population of a country such as Saudi Arabia, they should invest in more impactful channels of communication such as social media and exploit the social networks that play such a vital role in opinion-forming in the country.”

The research paper, “Renewable energy and innovation in Saudi Arabia: An exploration of factors affecting consumers’ intention to adopt Solar PV,” was recently published in the July edition of Technical Forecasting and Social Change.

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