How clean is clean? Incremental versus radical technological change in coal-fired power plants
In the discussion on innovations for sustainable development, radical innovations are frequently called for in order that the transformation of society to a system perceived as sustainable can succeed. The reason given for this is the greater environmental efficiency of these innovations. This hypothesis is, however, not supported by empirical evidence. Against the background of a globally increasing use of coal-burning power plants and the environmental impacts to be expected, the hypothesis that radical innovations are superior to incremental innovations is reviewed on the basis of fossil fuel power plants. This paper examines the diffusion of incremental and radical innovations in the field of power plants and the basic obstacles with which these innovations were confronted. To give an example, Pressurised Pulverised Coal Combustion (PPCC) as a radical innovation and supercritical coal-fired power plants as an incremental innovation are compared. An ex-post analysis of the German R&D portfolio in the past three decades in the field of power plants environmentally shows that technologies which were radical innovations had great difficulties in becoming accepted by possible investors. The future potential of radical innovations in the field of power plant technology is to be regarded as relatively low, especially due to comparatively high cost-pressure, the reluctance of utilities to take risks and the temporal dynamics of technological progress facilitating incremental innovations on the basis of conventional reference technology. The conclusion for future R&D work in the sector of large-scale power plants is that an innovation is more likely to succeed the more it follows established technological trajectories. In the context of energy market liberalisation, hardly any radical innovations are expected in this field of technology. The findings of this paper may also be helpful in evaluating risks or probabilities of success of technologies being developed. As an example technological trajectories currently favoured in CO2 capture are discussed.
|Date of creation:||2009|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: L 7,1; D - 68161 Mannheim|
Web page: http://www.zew.de/
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Otto, Vincent M. & Reilly, John, 2008. "Directed technical change and the adoption of CO2 abatement technology: The case of CO2 capture and storage," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 2879-2898, November.
- Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-71, September.
- Gerben Bakker, 2003. "The decline and fall of the European film industry: sunk costs, market size and market structure, 1890-1927," Economic History Working Papers 22366, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
- Nancy L. Rose & Paul L. Joskow, 1988.
"The Diffusion of New Technologies: Evidence From the Electric Utility Industry,"
NBER Working Papers
2676, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Nancy L. Rose & Paul L. Joskow, 1990. "The Diffusion of New Technologies: Evidence from the Electric Utility Industry," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(3), pages 354-373, Autumn.
- Nancy L. Rose & Paul L. Joskow, 1988. "The Diffusion of New Technologies: Evidence from the Electric Utility Industry," Working papers 501, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
- Thomas Astebro, 2004. "Sunk Costs and the Depth and Probability of Technology Adoption," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 381-399, 09.
- Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael, 2008. "Liberalisation and R&D in network industries: The case of the electricity industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6-7), pages 995-1008, July.
- Rennings, Klaus, 2000. "Redefining innovation -- eco-innovation research and the contribution from ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 319-332, February.
- Juan A. Máñez & María E. Rochina-Barrachina & Amparo Sanchis & Juan A. Sanchis, 2009. "THE ROLE OF SUNK COSTS IN THE DECISION TO INVEST IN R&D -super-," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(4), pages 712-735, December.
- Pindyck, Robert S., 1998.
"Irreversibilities and the timing of environmental policy,"
WP 4047-98., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
- Pindyck, Robert S., 2000. "Irreversibilities and the timing of environmental policy," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 233-259, July.
- Peter S. Reinelt & David W. Keith, 2007. "Carbon Capture Retrofits and the Cost of Regulatory Uncertainty," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 101-128.
- Carrillo-Hermosilla, Javier, 2006. "A policy approach to the environmental impacts of technological lock-in," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 717-742, July.
- Pavitt, Keith, 1984. "Sectoral patterns of technical change: Towards a taxonomy and a theory," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 343-373, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:09021. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.