Unlocking Clean Energy

This article espouses a plan to transform lock-in barriers into bridges for technological succession, contrasting with many current U.S. government policies that "lock in" mature clean energy technologies while blocking out innovative alternatives. "Technological lock-in" is characterized as a syndrome relating to markets in which the existing technology generation cannot be replaced by the next one, such as nuclear power. However, wind power and efficient lighting stand as examples of healthy technological succession, rather than lock-in. It is posited that rather than exacerbating the risk of technological lock-in, these success stories can inform public policies that mitigate it. Causes and consequences of lock-in are discussed with examples of certain clean energy technology platforms whose innovation is already being deterred, such as nuclear energy, biofuels, solar energy, and energy storage. However, efficient lighting and wind energy are on pace for continued technological improvement, as presented here. The importance of shepherding emerging clean energy technologies into commercial markets is emphasized, as policy makers must balance competing goals, ensuring that investors and entrepreneurs will have a market for their products supported by public policy, but also leaving room for the next generation of technology to emerge and compete. Intelligent deployment policies are needed that include support for innovation, such as auctions that raise revenue for technology-push policies by putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions.


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  • Accession Number: 01630173
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 27 2017 9:33AM