Down the learning Curve with Emerging Technologies
Briefing Note on the Kyoto Protocol
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Figure 2. Global electricity generation
by technology in the base scenario: case 1, a local optimum with business-as-usual.
Figure 3. Global electricity generation
by technology in the base scenario: case 2, a global optimum with a more
Figure 4. Higher early investment
costs in case 2 may lock out emerging technologies.
Figure 5. Global electricity generation by technology in the limited carbon dioxide
Figure 6. Annual CO2 emissions from the global electricity system in the GENIE
Results were produced
first for a base scenario, for which two different solutions can be obtained.
The first solution, a local optimum, appears in Figure
2. It can be described as a business-as-usual development of the global
electricity system, with total system costs amounting to $9,117 billion.
In this solution, conventional fossil technologies are phased out and
initially replaced by CCGT and hydro-power. Later, possibly due to increased
gas prices, CCGT is replaced by advanced coal power, which eventually
becomes the dominant technology of the system. Carbon dioxide emissions
from this system almost double by the middle of the next century, as shown
in Figure 6.
A completely different solution to the same scenario appears in Figure
3. This is the true optimal (least cost) solution which has a total
system cost of $9,106 billion, marginally lower than the first case. In
case 2, fuel cells swiftly gain market share and eventually become the
largest source of electricity. Photovoltaic cells (PV) contribute substantially
to global electricity production, and non-intermittent PV-H2 also enters
the system. Total carbon dioxide emissions increase by a maximum of 30
percent, but are later reduced below 1995 levels.
The lower costs, lower emissions and increased technological diversity
of case 2 suggest that this path can be viewed as a no-regrets policy,
making it the preferred choice. But the choice must be made early: in
case 1, there are no investments in PV or fuel cells. In case 2, these
technologies grow at the maximum rate from the first time period on. During
the first decades, however, these investments are not profitable, but
they are necessary to ensure future (greater) profitability. This situation
is illustrated in Figure 4, which shows annual
investment cost profiles for the two solutions.
This figure emphasizes the risk of technology lock-in. Case 2 requires
approximately 30 percent more investment capital than case 1 in the year
2025. If capital is a scarce resource in the future, a fairly safe assumption,
there is danger that capacity will be built up with established technologies
as in case 1, the business-as-usual future. There will then be no opportunity
to gather cost-reducing experience with emerging technologies because
they will be effectively locked out by established technologies.
“However”, says Mattsson, “implicit in the model representation is the
assumption that large grid-connected electricity systems will bear the
costs of introducing the emerging technologies. In practice, nursing and
bridging markets may provide a natural growing ground for the emerging
technologies. The burden of technology development on the grid-connected
systems may then be eased and lock-in prevented”.
In a second “greenhouse” scenario, a limit was placed on accumulated emissions
of carbon dioxide equivalent to 50 years of emissions as the current level,
with the resulting emission trajectory shown in Figure 6. A local optimum
is shown in Figure 5. The value of the emerging
technologies PV and fuel cells is much higher in the limited carbon dioxide
emissions scenario, and consequently both technologies are developed as
quickly as possible in both cases. Total system costs are $9,232 billion.
Thus, the demanding limits on carbon dioxide emissions raise the cost
only slightly more than 1 percent.
To obtain a local optimum which is different from the global least-cost
solution, Mattsson introduces extra constraints that make the global optimum
infeasible and force the solver to find another optimum. For example,
case 2 in the base scenario is the true global optimum. To obtain case
1, PV and fuel cell capacity were temporarily constrained (to less than
20 GW in 2025) but not explicitly forbidden. The constrained solution
was not to invest in these technologies at all. Since the capacity constraint
of 20 GW was inactive, this was a local optimum to the original problem.
This can occur in a nonlinear problem with several local optima, whereas
in a linear problem any such additional constraint would automatically
“The GENIE results illustrate that plausible locally optimal solutions
can show deviating paths that lead to drastically different future energy
systems”, says Mattsson. “Timely support of emerging technologies is probably
necessary to avoid lock-in of established technologies and build a diverse,
flexible energy system”.
Mattsson and Wene plan to study future electricity options for Sweden
by soft-linking GENIE with MARKAL. To facilitate this linking, GENIE was
designed to be as compatible with MARKAL as possible.
N. Mattsson. Internalizing technological development in energy systems
models. Thesis for the degree of licentiate in engineering. Chalmers University
of Technology. November 1997. N. Mattsson and C.-O. Wene. Assessing new
energy technologies using an energy system model with endogenized experience
curves. International Journal of Energy Research, Vol. 21, 385-393 (1997).
R.H. Williams and G. Terzian. A benefit/cost analysis of accelerated development
of photovoltaic technology. PU/CEES report no. 281, Princeton University,
New Jersey, USA.
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