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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



Feature description

Technology maturity and the scale of market uptake


Stakeholder attitude


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


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


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


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


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