The Design Approach to Developing Renewable Energy Systems in BoP Markets

By Janne Pekkala and Minna Jakobsson.

Published by The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online September 9, 2015 $US5.00

Business initiatives related to energy systems can have a strong impact on economic development and poverty reduction in Base of the Pyramid (BoP) markets. As BoP markets differ from developed markets, companies are forced to reconfigure their innovation and design strategies. The design approach has been efficient in creating accessible and affordable products that match both the local socio-cultural preferences as well as the economic conditions of the BoP without increasing the use of environmental resources. However, less research has been conducted on the ways in which design can contribute specifically to the development of systems-level solutions, such as decentralized renewable energy systems (DRES), in emerging markets. To expand existing research, this paper investigates the contribution of the design approach to the development of DRES for the BoP markets, with a particular focus on the early phases of systems development. We seek to advance our understanding by reviewing literature on existing theoretical frameworks and case studies of design approaches to BoP markets. We also examine case studies of DRES projects to identify integral elements of these systems. We aim to focus on published case studies specifically from DRES projects carried out in India. In addition, we discuss the BoP approach in order to identify the essential characteristics of the BoP environment that affect business ventures in these markets. As a result of the study, a framework is constructed to clarify the key considerations and roles of design in the early phases of DRES development. The framework suggests design approaches, methods and tools that are specifically suitable for this purpose. Based on this study, we argue that in the case of DRES development, the role of design shifts from designing the product or service to gathering and modeling information, facilitating the alignment of goals and co-creation, and making the information and systemic solutions accessible through visualizations.

Keywords: Energy Systems, Design, BoP

The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice, Volume 9, Issue 3, September, 2015, pp.61-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online September 9, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 852.492KB)).

Janne Pekkala

Concept Designer, Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Western Finland Design Centre Muova, Vaasa, Finland

Minna Jakobsson

Researcher, Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Western Finland Design Centre, Vaasa, Finland