The role of government in the development and diffusion of renewable energy technologies: Wind power in the United States, California, Denmark and Germany, 1970–2000

2001 2001

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation seeks to determine the role of government policy in advancing the development and diffusion of renewable energy technologies, and to determine if specific policies or policy types are more effective than others in achieving these ends.

This study analyzes legislation, regulations, research and development (R&D) programs and their impacts on wind energy in California, the rest of the United States, Denmark and Germany, from 1970 through 2000. These countries (and state) were chosen because each has followed a very different path and has adopted wind energy at different rates.

Demand for energy, particularly electricity, is rising rapidly worldwide. Renewable energy technologies could meet much of the world's future demand for electricity without the national security, environmental and social costs of conventional technologies. But renewables now play only a minor role in the electric generation systems of most countries.

According to conventional economic theory, renewable energy will achieve greater market penetration once it is cost-competitive with conventional generation. This dissertation concludes, however, that government policy is the most significant causal variable in determining the development and diffusion of wind energy technology.

Policy is more important for bringing wind energy to maturity than a nation's wind resource potential, wealth, relative differences in electricity prices, or existing infrastructure. Further, policy is essential for enabling a technology to succeed in the marketplace once it is cost-competitive. Policies can affect a technology's perceived, or real, costs; they can reduce risks or increase the availability and affordability of capital; appropriate and consistent policies can eliminate barriers to wind technology.

To be adopted on a large scale, renewables require effective, appropriate and, above all, consistent policies that are legislated with a long-term view toward advancing a technology and an industry. Inconsistent policy is economically costly and creates cycles of boom and bust, making it impossible to build a strong domestic industry. To be effective, policy must place priority on demand creation rather than government R&D; it must create a market, establish turbine standards and siting criteria, require data collection and dissemination, facilitate grid access, establish price guarantees, and enable stakeholder participation.

Indexing (details)

Environmental science;
International law;
International relations;
Business costs;
Energy policy;
Wind power
0768: Environmental science
0616: International law
0616: International relations
0505: Business costs
0791: Energy
Identifier / keyword
Health and environmental sciences; Social sciences; Applied sciences; California; Denmark; Energy policy; Germany; Renewable energy; Wind power
The role of government in the development and diffusion of renewable energy technologies: Wind power in the United States, California, Denmark and Germany, 1970–2000
Sawin, Janet Laughlin
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 62/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780493349756, 0493349758
Moomaw, William R.
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University)
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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