A Policy Learning Perspective on Developing Sustainable Energy Technologies
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Since the late 1970s wind power has played an increasing role in the Danish energy production and consumption and during the same period the Danish wind industry has obtained a leading world market position. The development of this “new” sector is in many ways an illustrating example of the systemic nature of innovation processes and its dependency on co-evolution and interaction between technological, economic, political, and institutional elements. It is also a clear example on the importance of long-term regulation and determined government energy policy if obtained industrial strongholds are to be maintained. When a liberal-conservative government in 2001 replaced a social democratic one, it put the renewable energy plans on stand by with negative consequences for both the environment and the renewable energy sector. The home market for new wind power installations nearly disappeared, and other emerging growth sectors as for instance solar energy and bio-fuel simply lost momentum after 2001. Only recently there are tendencies towards a return to a more renewable energy friendly policy.4 We argue that an innovation system approach and a related policy learning perspective can provide essential insights into the elements and relations influencing both the mutual success story of industry growth and energy policy based on wind power and the less constructive story of missing opportunities when renewable energy policies are given less political attention. The point of departure for the analysis is a ‘learning economy’ concept where learning and knowledge are central aspects of the economic process. Section 2 shortly lists some key characteristics of a modern learning economy. Section 3 emphasizes the policy learning concept. Policymaking is described, not as a means-ends, rational choice activity, but as a process of policy learning including vision building, institutional learning, organizational learning, integration of different area-specific policies, etc. In section 4 the Danish Wind Power Innovation System is used as reference case to illustrate the mutual relations between industrial dynamics and policy learning. Focus is on central factors and actors shaping the path of learning and innovation. Policy lessons learnt from the Danish wind industry ‘adventure’ are discussed in section 5 and section 6 summarizes the main conclusions.