Energy Related Product Service Systems (E-PSS)

From energypedia


A wide range of modern energy technologies has been invented in recent years, but despite global efforts to deploy these, the number of people without access to energy stagnates at 2.6 billion. How can we tackle that?

One suggestion is to understand these technologies as part of a product-service system that needs careful assessment, planning and organization when put into use. The term E-PSS stands for energy-related product-service-systems - according to McAloone, this system perspective combines the product as an artifact with the service that the product provides to the user and results in providing the consumer with what he really wants - the actual functionality from the product.

Need for Applicable Instruments to Develop and Evaluate E-PSS

Example - Mobisol GmbH: This social business evolved a product-service bundle to provide rural households in the developing world with solar energy. While the company’s initial idea was to use the smart solar home systems (SHS) they had invented to sell kWh of electricity in turn for SMS, several design iterations based on field feedback lead to a fairly different offer. Now, customers in Tanzania and Kenya acquire a solar system fit to their needs on a pay-as-you-go scheme they attend to via mobile banking. Throughout the 3-year credit period, their systems are covered by a limited warranty and receive free maintenance service that is carried out by qualified local technicians.

► More information on the enabling technology behind can be found here.

Strategic Design of E-PSS - Three-Step Approach to Energy Implementation

“Three-Step Approach to Energy Implementation” originally set out by Annette Henning: Meant as an alternative to the widespread code of practice to see non-technical issues as barriers, the model is built up of 3 steps of investigation:

  1. The first step aims to identify those individuals involved in or affected by the planned energy system - these can range from e.g. the technician operating the generator to the village school getting access to electric light.
  2. How those people are affected by the intervention is then dealt with during the second step.
  3. In the third step, focal point of Caroline’s research, the approach helps to answer the question how to actually tackle the long-term management of the product-service system.

Collaborative Application

Example - Biogas project BiogasT, realized at the Tanzanian NGO MAVUNO carried out in cooperation with the German association “Ingenieure ohne Grenzen e.V.”: Its goal is to design and implement a biogas digester model that needs little water and may function with both animal dung and crop residues like banana leaves. The necessity for daily operation and frequent maintenance made it an ideal case for strategic PSS design and evaluation.

The following list summarized key insights[1]:

  • When you design a PSS, be aware that based on field feedback, the goal might change significantly. In the Mavuno case for example, the demand for fertilizer was a much more important reason to operate a biogas digester than the original intent to provide cooking gas and lead to notable design changes.
  • Try to consider and create value for each stakeholder. A good example in the Mavuno case is the existent charcoal producer in the village, who will likely be affected by its new competitor.
  • Using “idea competitions” to gain feedback from the field is a good alternative to plain focus group discussions, during which only “the loud ones” clearly state their opinion.
  • To test products, it is not enough to place them in people’s hands, place them in people’s homes.
  • A major part of services offered are tasks, formerly carried out by the consumer, now given away to service staff or technologies (e.g. launderettes). While this provides a selling proposition to the majority of customers in the global North, the base of the pyramid for most of the part desires to carry out all tasks, which are principally executable, themselves.

Further Information

All research presented is detailed in papers accessible through the conference proceedings here:

  • “Achieving sustainable electrification in off-grid areas by developing a product-service-system based on feedback from the field”, Klara Lindner, Mobisol GmbH, Berlin, Germany
  • “A 'Three-Step-Approach' to Energy Implementation”, Annette Henning & Caroline Nielsen, Solar Energy Research Center (SERC), Dalarna University, Sweden
  • “Product-Service System Design Approach for the Base of the Pyramid Markets: Practical Evidences from the Energy Sector in the Brazilian Context”, Jairo da Costa Junior, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Department of Design Engineering, Section Design for Sustainability
  • “Project Biogas support for Tanzania ‘BiogaST’”, Adam Bitakwate & Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Philipp Becker, MAVUNO Project, Karagwe, Kagera, Tanzania


  1. Gathered in the subgroups at the Micro Perspectives for Decentralized Energy Supply Conference - 2013 -