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Table 1 The progression of five phases of technological transitions with feature description (adapted from IEA 2015; Kemp and Rotmans 2005; Kivimaa et al. 2019; Loorbach and Shiroyama 2016; Rotmans et al. 2001)

From: Spatiotemporal perspectives on urban energy transitions: a comparative study of three cities in China

Phases Definition Feature description
Technology maturity and the scale of market uptake Cost-effectiveness Stakeholder attitude
Predevelopment A dynamic equilibrium where the status quo does not visibly change, but experimentation takes place. ■ Basic R&D; prototype; demonstration projects; patent development ■ Costs remain high ■ Initial expert interest in technology
Take-off The process of change gets underway and the state of the system begins to shift. ■ Applied R&D – focusing on cost reduction and technology performance ■ Technology is feasible but high-cost gap ■ Growing expert interest in technology
Breakthrough Novel niches start to build up. ■ Applied R&D – emergence of business models; small companies
■ Emergence of a niche market
■ High-cost gap remains, but achieve cost-effectiveness under specific conditions ■ Initial public interest
Acceleration Changes further speed up, with structural changes taking place in a visible way. ■ Technologies still under-utilized. Some non-economic barriers, such as social and institutional ones, stall their uptake
■ Market remains a minor share
■ Diverse and rapid growth of new business models which are more customer-oriented
■ Technologies are progressively approaching widespread cost-competitiveness
■ Rapid pace of cost reduction due to market expansion and penetration
■ Increasing acceptance by utilities and communities
Stabilization The speed of social change decreases and a new dynamic equilibrium is reached. ■ Technology is mature
■ Margin increase in market uptake; new installations slow down; any new increases may be additional or replacement
■ Mass-market exists; the supply chain is well established; consolidation of the industry structure
■ Cost-effective gains due to economies of scale ■ Technology becomes a part of people’s daily lives (integration)
■ Market and regulatory frameworks already adapted to the characteristics of the technology
■ Declining policy support