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Innovation in the energy sector

  • Klaus Friesenbichler

This study analyses the diffusion of renewable energy (RE) technologies. It analyses the transition dynamics as the sector broadens its energy mix and changes its capital stock. This shift is found to be desirable from an environmental, geopolitical and economic perspective. Yet, it greatly increases the technical and industrial complexity, and is not Pareto-efficient. We focus on wind and solar power, and discuss their promoted deployment against the energy policy principles of the EU. Put drastically, the promotion of ‘sustainability’ undermined ‘competitive’ mechanisms. This has potentially adverse effects on the ‘security of supply’ due to the market design that seeks to keep prices low. RE outperforms conventional facilities. Emergency capacities, however, are also exiting, especially in Germany. If markets are seen as one, there seems to be a threshold of wind and solar power that the current back-up system can incorporate without risking the security of supply. The policy relevant crux lies in conflicting mechanisms: the top-down promotion and planning policies undermine the bottom-up market selection. Then again, without interventions the market does not provide the socially desired outcomes. If tensions aggravate further, the implementation of the new technology base is likely to stall. In addition, the generous promotion resulted in the fast deployment of RE, which may have shortened the ‘formative phase’ of the diffusion process. A longer formative phase would have created more learning effects and fostered more incremental innovations. In addition, costs of subsidies are allocated differently across countries. Mechanisms that allocate costs to the public budget have greater acceptance rates than budget neutral ones that assign costs to consumers. The latter affect households asymmetrically across income classes. Also ownership structures changed; a large number of actors now constitute the energy sector. Citizens increasingly appeared as producers and investors, which stimulated the social acceptance of RE, and in some cases unlocked initially unfavourable vested interests.

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Paper provided by WWWforEurope in its series WWWforEurope Working Papers series with number 31.

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Length: 106
Date of creation: Jul 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published
Handle: RePEc:feu:wfewop:y:2013:m:7:d:0:i:31
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Order Information: Postal: WWWforEurope Project Office Austrian Institute of Economic Research Arsenal Objekt 20 A-1030 Vienna
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