Date of Award

Spring 1990

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Sally K Ward


In an attempt to develop a comprehensive approach to the study of the adoption of energy systems, this dissertation first critically examines a variety of approaches to this phenomenon, including market models of adoption, the adoption of innovations literature, and the social psychology of attitudes and behavior. Market models are seen as generally reductionistic and the argument is made that they fail to take into consideration a variety of non-cost considerations. The assumption here is that while price considerations play a role in this process, decisions are also affected by values and attitudes which are not directly incorporated into market models. A general model of adoption is developed which incorporates situational variables, decision factors, and individual characteristics.

This model provides the basis for an analysis of data obtained through a survey of homeowners in the state of New Hampshire. Respondents in the survey are separated into three basic groups: those who have actually made an active decision to purchase an energy system (adopters), those who have thought about purchasing a nonconventional system and then decided against such a purchase (aware nonadopters) and those who have never thought about purchasing any sort of energy system (unaware nonadopters).

The model is used in six different logit comparisons; centralized versus decentralized adopters; aware nonadopters versus, first solar adopters and, secondly, wood adopters; all nonadopters compared to all adopters; and unaware nonadopters compared to, again, solar adopters and then wood wood adopters. While the results vary for each comparison, generally they demonstrate that: (a) demographic variables do not help us to understand the differences between these groups; and (b) while some type of price consideration plays a role in these analyses, non-cost considerations like a desire to be independent or the amount of exposure to alternatives are also very important in helping us to understand this process.