Frameworks for understanding and promoting solar energy technology development

Chelsea Schelly, Michigan Technological University

© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( Publisher’s version of record:


In this paper, the contrasting theories of metabolic rift and ecological modernization theory (EMT) are applied to the same empirical phenomenon. Metabolic rift argues that the natural metabolic relationship between humans and nature has been fractured through modernization, industrialization and urbanization. EMT, in contrast, argues that societies in an advanced state of industrialization adopt ecologically benign production technologies and political policies, suggesting that modern societies could be on course to alleviate the ecological damage caused by capitalism. These two theories are fundamentally different in their assumptions about modern economies and technologies, yet both can be used as a theoretical lens to examine the phenomenon of solar energy technology adoption. Furthermore, both theories shed light on the increasing adoption of solar energy technologies in both “developing” and “developed” regions and the potential social conditions for promoting renewable energy technology adoption.