Testing for the presence of some features of increasing returns to adoption factors in energy system dynamics: An analysis via the learning curve approach
The purpose of this paper is to explain the sources of energy system lock-in. It presents a comparative analysis of the respective contributions of some features of increasing returns to adoption factors, i.e. learning-by-doing, learning-by-searching and returns to scale effects in explaining the technological change dynamics in the energy system. The paper is technically based on a critical analysis of the learning curve approach. Econometric estimation of learning and scale effects inherent to seven energy technologies were performed by the use of several learning curve specifications. These specifications permit to deal with some crucial issues related to the learning curve estimation which are associated with the problem of omitted variable bias, the endogeneity effects and the choice of learning indicators. Results show that dynamic economies from learning effects coupled with static economies from scale effects are responsible for the lock-in phenomena of the energy system. They also show that the magnitude of such effects is correlated with the technology life cycle (maturity). In particular, results point out that, 1) the emerging technologies exhibit low learning rates associated with diseconomies of scale which are argued to be symptomatic of the outset of the deployment of new technologies characterized by diffusion barriers and high level of uncertainty, 2) the evolving technologies present rather high learning rates meaning that they respond quickly to capacity expansion and R&D activities development, 3) conventional mature technologies display low learning rates but increasing returns to scale implying that they are characterized by a limited additional diffusion prospects.
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