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The Valley of Death, the Technology Pork Barrel, and Public Support for Large Demonstration Projects

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  • Gregory F. Nemet
  • Martina Kraus
  • Vera Zipperer

Abstract

Moving non-incremental innovations from the pilot scale to full commercial scale raises questions about the need and implementation of public support. Heuristics from the literature put policy makers in a dilemma between addressing a market failure and acknowledging a government failure: incentives for private investments in large scale demonstrations are weak (the valley of death) but the track record of governance in large demonstration projects is poor (the technology pork barrel). We reassess these arguments in the literature, particularly as to how they apply to sup- porting demonstration projects for decarbonizing industry. Conditions for the valley of death exist with: low appropriability, large chunky investments, unproven reliability, and uncertain future markets. We build a data set of 511 demonstration projects in nine technology areas and code characteristics for each project, including timing, motivations, and scale. We argue that the literature and the results from the case studies have five main implications for policy makers in making decisions about demonstration support. Policy makers should consider: 1) prioritizing learning, 2) iterative upscaling, 3) private sector engagement, 4) broad knowledge dissemination, and 5) making demand pull robust.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory F. Nemet & Martina Kraus & Vera Zipperer, 2016. "The Valley of Death, the Technology Pork Barrel, and Public Support for Large Demonstration Projects," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1601, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1601
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    5. Francesco Lamperti & Mariana Mazzucato & Andrea Roventini & Gregor Semieniuk, 2019. "The Green Transition: Public Policy, Finance, and the Role of the State," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 88(2), pages 73-88.
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    11. Christopher J. Blackburn & Mallory E. Flowers & Daniel C. Matisoff & Juan Moreno‐Cruz, 2020. "Do Pilot and Demonstration Projects Work? Evidence from a Green Building Program," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 39(4), pages 1100-1132, September.
    12. Bossink, Bart, 2020. "Learning strategies in sustainable energy demonstration projects: What organizations learn from sustainable energy demonstrations," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).
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    16. Brozynski, Max T. & Leibowicz, Benjamin D., 2020. "Markov models of policy support for technology transitions," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 286(3), pages 1052-1069.
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    18. Bento, Nuno & Fontes, Margarida, 2019. "Emergence of floating offshore wind energy: Technology and industry," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 66-82.
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    21. Wang, Nan & Akimoto, Keigo & Nemet, Gregory F., 2021. "What went wrong? Learning from three decades of carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) pilot and demonstration projects," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
    22. Wesseling, J.H. & Lechtenböhmer, S. & Åhman, M. & Nilsson, L.J. & Worrell, E. & Coenen, L., 2017. "The transition of energy intensive processing industries towards deep decarbonization: Characteristics and implications for future research," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 1303-1313.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Demonstrations; technology push; demand pull;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy

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