Technology developers are often all-too familiar with the “chasm” that seems to exist between technology demonstration and transfer. Despite successful testing, moving a technology into market for widespread implementation faces a number of potential barriers that are difficult for technology developers to overcome on their own.

Utilities can play a critical role in helping potentially game-shifting technologies gain traction in the marketplace. By implementing a process for identifying and moving forward the most promising emerging technologies, utilities can help technology developers surmount the common barriers new energy efficiency technologies face. By performing a post-production value chain analysis that includes distribution, promotion and actual installation and mapping the parties involved manufactures, distributors (wholesale/retail), contractors and end use customers, utilities can identify barriers and provides support to overcome the barriers in the adoption of emerging technologies or products.

Based on Lincus’ experience working with emerging technologies, market studies and implementing pilot programs, we have identified the following common barriers for technology transfer.

Barriers to technology transfer

Understanding the specific barriers an emerging technology faces can help utilities identify the most appropriate solution for supporting the solution’s move into implementation. Below are some of the most common barriers to technology transfer.

  1. Marketing, education and outreach process

Marketing and education through outreach raises awareness among installation contractors and potential end-users, developing demand for implementing new technologies. This education might include white papers and case studies that highlight how an emerging technology’s energy savings vary based on installation across climate zones or a population-level savings impact analysis, as well as site-specific results. A white paper can also lay the groundwork for creating a consistent process for calculating savings in the same way by all engineering firms or installers.

This outreach can help influence parties who might be acting as barriers based on the value chain analysis. For example, a plumbing contractor installing hot water heaters can significantly influence a customer into buying emerging hot water heater technology. The installer, after all, has greater expertise in this specific niche. Targeting contractors with marketing material and distribution efforts can serve as a cost-effective way to increase adoption of emerging technologies.

  1. Guidance for leveraging energy efficiency program methods

Incorporating technology transfer as part of the technology demonstration process generates specific guidance for product manufacturers on how they could leverage utilities’ energy-efficiency programs early on in the process. Energy-efficiency program implementation methods may include deemed, direct install, midstream, upstream and custom methods. In technology transfer, understanding specific parameters, such as energy savings, demand savings, savings methods, monitoring and verification of savings, and technologies’ useful life, is critical for stakeholders’ success.

  1. Visibility into technology evaluation

Most utilities in the United States have an emerging technologies program, but those programs often operate in silos. Providing implementers and program developers greater visibility into where a specific technology stands in terms of evaluation is critically important. This visibility allows stakeholders in the process to take additional steps needed to prepare for a technology’s eventual implementation. In addition, success of emerging technologies requires independent third-party demonstrations, which end-use customers can trust and rely upon to do their own economic analysis.

For consistency and transparency, we recommend the use of a visible dashboard or website to track the progress of emerging technology solutions evaluated by all investor owned utilities. Ultimately, our goal is to broaden this visibility through a regional collaboration that will allow all of the stakeholders vested in energy efficient emerging technologies to track and prepare for progress.

  1. Training

Any change in technology is going to see a corresponding change in installation contractors’ processes. As a result, transferring knowledge from field demonstrations and recommendations into implementable processes begins with an operating plan and a framework for contractor training.

Fortunately, all 50 states have created some form of Workforce Education and Training program to shift their workforces toward installing high technology products, a form of work that generally commands the higher wages that can help encourage adoption of emerging technologies.

  1. Cost

Without a doubt, the financial burden of bringing an emerging technology into the marketplace can be prohibitive, no matter the future cost savings it may offer. Utilities have a tremendous ability to assist here. The most common solution comes in providing incentives either to the end-user, manufacturer, distributer or other market participant that encourage more customers to adopt a given technology. The value chain analysis is an excellent tool in determine the appropriate parties that would need a nudge. For some demand response technologies, utilities may see the benefit of making adjustments to the utility rate structures, ensuring those technologies are grid flexible.

Gating process for emerging technology

Understanding these barriers can help utilities craft a plan to drive adoption. In fact, to ensure emerging technologies gain traction in the marketplace, utilities should develop a plan that begins with identifying and evaluating promising emerging technologies. By collaborating with regional and national organizations, utilities can scan a wide range of research and development activities for technology solutions that may fit their strategic goals. Once identified, emerging technologies should be evaluated and prioritized based on their potential energy savings, ease of adoption, cost, and ability to help the utility meet its specific goals.

A more detailed assessment might include market research, field testing, and any other collection of data to determine whether the utility and its end-users will benefit from further investment in the emerging technology. This assessment might also gather information on the barriers the technology may face in gaining market adoption. The most likely candidates to succeed then would undergo laboratory testing, as well as field testing that might evaluate criteria beyond energy performance that can influence the likelihood of technology adoption.

Next steps

Once the emerging technology’s energy savings have been validated, utilities play a critical role in helping the technology penetrate the market. Whether that means offering financial incentives, engineering or installation assistance, or even marketing support, this step is perhaps the most critical in that it validates the investment made up to this point.

While there is more to be done to improve this process for moving forward promising emerging technologies, there is a clear path forward. By conducting value chain analyses and then taking steps to ensure emerging technologies take hold, utilities can play a more active role in driving greater energy efficiency.

This is an area where Lincus can help. Lincus assists in consolidating utility service areawide and statewide efforts for emerging technologies and underperforming technologies. We make this process transparent to implementers, installers, manufacturers and distributors. With our detailed value chain analysis of technologies and by performing targeted market evaluation and training of stakeholders, we pinpoint technology nudges.

To develop your next steps, contact Lincus today.