Three essays on clean energy technology diffusion and policy innovations
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This thesis is motivated by the challenges and opportunities the energy sector faces as a result of climate change. Traditional power generation based on fossil-fuel use has contributed significantly to the historic increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. While low-carbon energy technology is often regarded as a key solution to climate change mitigation, the successful transformation to a clean energy economy requires a solid scientific understanding of the technological change process and the role of public policies. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to examine the interplay between technology and policy to support the design and implementation of effective policy practices for the scaling up of clean energy technologies. It investigates the diffusion mechanisms underlying both technology and policy innovations in the energy infrastructure system, focusing on smart grid and renewable energy technologies. In this thesis, quantitative and qualitative methods are integrated to evaluate the role of public policies in smart metering technology diffusion. In particular, I collect and analyze market penetration data for 50 U.S. states and D.C. between 2007 and 2012 to assess the effectiveness of government interventions in driving smart metering technological change. I also conduct a comparative case study to investigate how the design of policies and the subsequent policy processes have led to the cross-national variation in smart meter deployment in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. My study has shown that polycentric energy governance, particularly the interdependencies between different government actions, plays an important role in smart meter deployment in the U.S. context, whereas a coherent policy framework that addresses institutional, financial, and social barriers is proven to be more effective in promoting smart meters in the cases of five European countries. To further explore the driving forces of clean energy policy adoption, I apply logit event history analysis models and stratified Cox conditional gap time models to investigate determinants for the adoption of five types of renewable energy policies by 30 European countries between 1990 and 2012. The results show that initial renewable energy policy spread across countries can be well explained by the learning and competition mechanisms, while the four diffusion theories have largely failed to explain subsequent policy modifications and changes. In addition to each paper’s individual contributions, the findings of this thesis collectively provide important implications for the adoption and implementation of clean energy technologies and policies to enhance the sustainability of the electric grid system.