Solar business model adoption by energy incumbents: the importance of strategic fit
Journal article, 2021

This paper answers recent calls to give more attention to the business strategies of incumbent actors regarding innovation and socio-technical transitions. We map the solar business model adoption of 30 Swedish electric utility incumbents and examine to what extent it can be explained by the strategic fit with the utilities' established business models, corporate strategies, and external environment. We find that all three dimensions need to be considered in order to explain adoption. Alignment with the established business model is mainly important concerning activities, resources, and partnerships, and utilities also re-configure solar models to increase this alignment (e.g. through outsourcing). However, it is not the main driver for adoption. Instead, incentives and pressures related to corporate strategies and external environment induce or block retailers from adopting solar models. By demonstrating the importance of strategic fit, these findings provide a more nuanced understanding of industry incumbent's strategies in relation to emerging technologies.

Business strategy

Institutional environment

Horizontal alignment

Vertical alignment

Task environment

Solar PV


Maria Altunay

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Anna Bergek

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics

Alvar Palm

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Innovation and R&D Management

Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions

22104224 (eISSN)

Vol. 40 501-520

Electricity retailers and solar power diffusion: strategies and critical trade-offs

Swedish Energy Agency (2018-003170), 2019-01-01 -- 2020-12-31.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Environmental Management

Economics and Business

Environmental Sciences

Areas of Advance




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