Author(s): Varnäs, A., J. Fahnestock, B. Nykvist, C. Chandler, P. Erickson, M. Nilsson, G. Han, M. Lazarus and K. Hallding
In: SEI Research Report: Stockholm, Sweden.
Type: Research report
Link to SEI author(s):
Driving Technological Innovation for a Low-Carbon Society: Case Studies for Solar Photovoltaics and Carbon Capture and Storage
This project, which is the first of three within the partnership programme between the business leaders’ initiative 3C (Combat Climate Change) and the Stockholm Environment Institute, has researched the development and deployment of two technologies that could play key roles in supplying electricity for a low carbon society: solar photovoltaics (PV) and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Technological change is crucial for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Some of the technologies needed to achieve a low carbon society are ready to implement now, while others need further development and cost reductions. In this project, the ‘technological innovation system’ framework is applied to analyse and describe innovations in solar PV and CCS in Europe and in the United States, and to examine the barriers to and drivers of innovation; the geographic scope of each innovation system and how it affects the innovation process; and policies that support innovation and deployment. Narrower reviews of solar PV development and deployment in China and India are also included.
High costs (and associated risks and barriers to investment) constrain deployment of both PV and CCS in Europe and the USA. To facilitate the innovations needed to decrease these costs, both policies that target the demand (‘market pull’) and policies targeting supply (‘technology push’) are needed. The study found quite different approaches in Europe and in the USA, with a stronger focus on market pull policies in Europe and more emphasis on R&D support in the USA. For both technologies, current levels of investment are far short of what would be needed for these technologies to become cost-effective options to maintain a global atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450 ppm.
The innovation systems for PV and CCS are increasingly international, with innovative activity and manufacturing taking place in many countries. Markets, though, are still concentrated in a few areas of the world. To date, European countries have been the principal markets for solar PV installations, and these markets have helped spur the development of an international industry. For PV technologies to develop rapidly and play a leading role in emissions abatement, further development and expansion of markets in other parts of the world are crucial.
For CCS, significant uncertainty remains over the effectiveness and costs of the integrated system, and it is likely that the first attempts will be less successful than those that follow. Demonstration projects are needed to ensure the viability of the CCS technology on a larger scale, and to move from technological development to deployment. The ‘push’ of demonstration must further be complemented with credible prospects for a market for CO2.
Download the research report (PDF: 2.09MB)