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Winner, Loser, or Innocent Victim? Has Renewable Energy Performed As Expected?


  • Burtraw, Dallas

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • Palmer, Karen

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • Darmstadter, Joel

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • McVeigh, James


This study provides an evaluation of the performance of five renewable energy technologies used to generate electricity: biomass, geothermal, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, and wind. The authors compared the actual performance of these technologies against stated projections that helped shape public policy goals over the last three decades. Their findings document a significant difference between the success of renewable technologies in penetrating the U.S. electricity generation market and in meeting cost-related goals, when compared with historic projections. In general, renewable technologies have failed to meet expectations with respect to market penetration. They have succeeded, however, in meeting or exceeding expectations with respect to their cost. To a significant degree, the difference in performance in meeting projections of penetration and cost stem from the declining price of conventional generation, which constitutes a moving baseline against which renewable technologies have had to compete.

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  • Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen & Darmstadter, Joel & McVeigh, James, 1999. "Winner, Loser, or Innocent Victim? Has Renewable Energy Performed As Expected?," Discussion Papers dp-99-28, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-99-28

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Denny Ellerman, 1998. "Note on The Seemingly Indefinite Extension of Power Plant Lives, A Panel Contribution," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
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    Cited by:

    1. Sun, Chuanwang & Zhu, Xiting, 2014. "Evaluating the public perceptions of nuclear power in China: Evidence from a contingent valuation survey," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 397-405.
    2. Austin, David & Macauley, Molly & Darmstadter, Joel & Shih, Jhih-Shyang & Aronow, Emily & Bath, Tom, 2002. "Measuring the Contribution to the Economy of Investments in Renewable Energy: Estimates of Future Consumer Gains," Discussion Papers dp-02-05-, Resources For the Future.
    3. Jun, Eunju & Joon Kim, Won & Hoon Jeong, Yong & Heung Chang, Soon, 2010. "Measuring the social value of nuclear energy using contingent valuation methodology," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 1470-1476, March.
    4. Winston Harrington & Richard D. Morgenstern & Peter Nelson, 2000. "On the accuracy of regulatory cost estimates," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(2), pages 297-322.
    5. Bergek, Anna & Mignon, Ingrid & Sundberg, Gunnel, 2013. "Who invests in renewable electricity production? Empirical evidence and suggestions for further research," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 568-581.
    6. Macauley, Molly & Shih, Jhih-Shyang, 2003. "Effects of Carbon Policies and Technology Change," Discussion Papers dp-03-14, Resources For the Future.
    7. Shukla P R & Debyani Ghosh & P V Ramana & Amit Garg, 2008. "Renewable Energy Strategies for Indian Power Sector," Working Papers id:1715, eSocialSciences.
    8. Siddiqui, Afzal S. & Marnay, Chris & Wiser, Ryan H., 2007. "Real options valuation of US federal renewable energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 265-279, January.
    9. Berglund, Christer & Soderholm, Patrik, 2006. "Modeling technical change in energy system analysis: analyzing the introduction of learning-by-doing in bottom-up energy models," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(12), pages 1344-1356, August.
    10. Christiansen, Atle Christer, 2002. "New renewable energy developments and the climate change issue: a case study of Norwegian politics," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 235-243, February.
    11. El Kasmioui, O. & Verbruggen, A. & Ceulemans, R., 2015. "The 2013 reforms of the Flemish renewable electricity support: Missed opportunities," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 905-917.
    12. Klass, Donald L., 2003. "A critical assessment of renewable energy usage in the USA," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 353-367, March.
    13. Menz, Fredric C., 2005. "Green electricity policies in the United States: case study," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(18), pages 2398-2410, December.
    14. Patrik Söderholm & Ger Klaassen, 2007. "Wind Power in Europe: A Simultaneous Innovation–Diffusion Model," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 36(2), pages 163-190, February.
    15. Vajjhala, Shalini, 2006. "Siting Renewable Energy Facilities: A Spatial Analysis of Promises and Pitfalls," Discussion Papers dp-06-34, Resources For the Future.
    16. Kobos, Peter H. & Erickson, Jon D. & Drennen, Thomas E., 2006. "Technological learning and renewable energy costs: implications for US renewable energy policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(13), pages 1645-1658, September.
    17. Darmstadter, Joel, 2003. "The Economic and Policy Setting of Renewable Energy: Where Do Things Stand?," Discussion Papers dp-03-64, Resources For the Future.
    18. Rasmussen, Tobias N., 2001. "CO2 abatement policy with learning-by-doing in renewable energy," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 297-325, October.
    19. Berry, David, 2002. "The market for tradable renewable energy credits," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 369-379, September.
    20. Palmer, Karen & Burtraw, Dallas, 2005. "Cost-effectiveness of renewable electricity policies," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 873-894, November.
    21. Haase, Rachel & Bielicki, Jeffrey & Kuzma, Jennifer, 2013. "Innovation in emerging energy technologies: A case study analysis to inform the path forward for algal biofuels," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1595-1607.
    22. Söderholm, Patrik & Sundqvist, Thomas, 2007. "Empirical challenges in the use of learning curves for assessing the economic prospects of renewable energy technologies," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 32(15), pages 2559-2578.

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