Proceeding with caution: Drivers and obstacles to electric utility adoption of smart grids in the United States

You Zheng, Jeffrey Stanton, Angela Ramnarine-Rieks, Jason Dedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Smart grid adoption by U.S. electric utilities promises improved reliability and resilience for an aging electric grid, while enabling integration of renewable energy sources and decarbonization of the electricity sector. Factors influencing adoption are unclear, however. Starting with the technology, organizational and environmental (TOE) model, we examined factors influencing smart grid adoption using a mixed methods approach that included interviews and a survey of utility representatives. We found that utilities were primarily motivated by internal goals such as cost reduction and improved operational performance, and less by external factors such as customer demand or pressure to accommodate renewables. They were inhibited by the perception that technologies are still immature and by a lack of funds to invest. Larger utilities, IOUs, and more technologically opportunistic firms had higher levels of adoption. Structural topic modeling of interviews identified findings not captured in the TOE framework, such as the importance of relationships between utilities and regulators, and the overlapping roles of cooperative member/customers. These interactions are better explained within the institutional logics perspective, which can enrich understanding of smart grid adoption beyond TOE. Policy recommendations are offered to facilitate adoption through regulatory changes, financial support to utilities, and support of standardization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102839
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Innovation adoption
  • Institutional logics
  • Mixed methods
  • Regulatory environment
  • Structural topic modeling
  • TOE framework

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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