Challenges and opportunities of business models in sustainable transitions: Evidence from solar energy niche development in Lebanon

Houda Elmustapha, Thomas Hoppe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


Although business models presumably have a prominent role in socio-technical change remarkably little research has been conducted in this domain, more particularly in the context of developing economies. In this paper, we tap into this knowledge gap and study business model components and the challenges they face. We argue that the market value of renewable energy technologies will increase when new business models are implemented to overcome financial and institutional challenges. We complement concepts of the business model literature with the insights from the sustainable transitions literature. This paper addresses two research questions: What are the challenges of business and financial models in the transition towards decentralized solar energy driven systems? And what are the promising opportunities for new business models in a developing country context? To answer these research questions, we use a case study research design focusing on niche market development of solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology in Lebanon. Data collection involved analysis of relevant text documents and expert interviews with 30 informants across different groups of stakeholders. Data analysis involved qualitative interpretation of collected data against concepts from the business model and Strategic Niche Management literatures. The results show that business model challenges initially were highly dependent on donor aid, which contributed to the launch and network creation of niche markets. Later, a shift to micro-finance and business startup models was observed, which showed promising development. Knowledge transfer and community empowerment were found to play an important role in developing new business models that involve consumers more closely. As this development is expected to take place more often, we expect that new opportunity pathways will develop in developing economies like Lebanon.

Original languageEnglish
Article number670
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Business model
  • Consumers
  • Niche development
  • Renewable energy
  • Solar energy
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable transition


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