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Table 3 A summary of the key events driving urban transition trajectories in Foshan, Wuxi, and Rizhao

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

Cities Phases Key events Outcome
Foshan Breakthrough • Sanshui Industrial Park was designated as a national demonstration zone for distributed solar PV in 2013
• Introduction of the national solar FIT and the Guangdong Solar PV Power Generational Development Plan in 2014
• The municipal government introduced a FIT of RMB 0.15/kWh and a direct subsidy (RMB 1/W) on installed capacity
• Village committees piloted solar projects in urban villages
• Market agents developed new business models for solar products and services
• Emergence of new business models
• Emergence of a niche market
• Cost gap narrowed due to subsidies
• Initial public interest
Acceleration • The number of installed solar PV went from less than a dozen in 2015 to 763 by the end of 2016
• Payback periods were reduced from 15 to 8 years in the period from 2015 to 2016
• The proliferation of new business models
• Grid companies and their local subsidiaries in Foshan provided enhanced services to connect PV systems to the grid
• Market expanding, but remains a minor share
• Technologies approaching cost-competitiveness
• Diverse and rapid growth of business models
• Increasing acceptance by utilities and communities
Wuxi Breakthrough • In 2001, Sun-tech was founded with the support of local government.
• A solar power industry cluster started to form.
• Emergence of business models
• Initial public interest
Acceleration • In 2007, the blue algae outbreak in Taihu Lake posed an environmental and public health crisis that reverberated throughout the city and triggered political support for the development of clean energy.
• In 2008, the municipal government required the mandatory installation of SWHs in all new housing buildings under 12 floors
• Wuxi Taihu New Town was designated as a ‘national demonstration zone of low-carbon eco-cities’ in 2009
• From 2010, Wuxi implemented a ‘4610’ plan (four policies to accelerate 6 technologies in 10 demonstration projects)
• Market expansion due to policy support, but remains a minor share
• Increasing public interest
Stabilization • The total solar power generation reached 90 MW in 2015
• By the year 2016, over 100 core solar enterprises had clustered in Wuxi
• In 2016, the roof area with installed SWHs and distributive PV stations in Taihu was over 1.6 km2
• Mass market exists
• The supply chain is well established
• Consolidation of the industry structure
• Increasing interest in ‘greener’ lifestyles
Rizhao Predevelopment • The emergence of sporadic grassroots experiments in early 1980s due to social needs • Costs remain high due to lack of economies of scale
• Initial expert interests
Take-off • The technology to produce SWHs with evacuated glass tubes was developed in 1984 • Technology is feasible but high-cost gap remains
• Growing expert interest in technology
Breakthrough &
• In the early 1990s, subsidies were provided to local solar firms
• Leading enterprises started to produce complete machines of water-in-glass evacuated tube SWHs at a large scale in late 1990s
• Emergence of new business models and companies
• Technologies are progressively approaching cost-competitiveness
• Rapid pace of cost reduction due to market expansion and penetration
• Increasing acceptance by utilities and communities
Stabilization • Till the early 2000s, more than 70% of the urban households using water-in-glass evacuated tube SWHs
• The introduction of the mandatory installation of SWHs in 2007
• The extension of the mandatory installation of SWHs to high-rise buildings in 2010
• Technology is mature
• Mass market exists
• Cost-effective due to economies of scale
• Widespread acceptance by communities
• Technology becomes a part of people’s daily lives