Fitting business models in sociotechnical transitions: the marketing of utility energy efficiency programs in Canada and the US

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University of New Brunswick


This thesis explores the relationship between business models and the multi-level perspective on sociotechnical transitions. Through an examination of utility energy efficiency programs in Canada and the US, I use the business model canvas framework to understand how utilities market and deliver these programs. The research questions ask: how do utility business models differ for residential energy efficiency programs, and how do the differences in these business models affect the utilities’ role in transitions? Data is collected through semi-structured interviews with program managers and supported by content analysis of marketing materials. The business model canvas blocks of value propositions, customer segments, customer relationships and key partners are used to code and analyze the data. The analysis finds that key partners are a primary differentiator of utility business models and can be categorized into three groups based on relation to the focal firm and industry. A generic key partner canvas is proposed to depict the relationship between value propositions and key partners. This partner canvas can besituated within the multi-level perspective framework to illuminate the relationship between industries, individual firms and customers. Additionally, three segments of utilities are identified, to describe the different roles the utility business model plays in sustainability transitions and the push to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.