Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Does economic growth matter? Technology-push, demand-pull and endogenous drivers of innovation in the renewable energy industry

Sam, Aflaki and Syed Abul, Basher and Andrea, Masini (2016): Does economic growth matter? Technology-push, demand-pull and endogenous drivers of innovation in the renewable energy industry.

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This paper aims to contribute to the longstanding technology-push vs. demand-pull debate and to the literature on renewable energy policy assessment. We argue that in addition to the traditional push–pull dichotomy, the drivers of technological change must be differentiated by whether they are exogenous or endogenous to the economic system and must be assessed with respect to their contribution to both the creation and the diffusion of innovation. We apply this perspective to study innovation in the renewable energy (RE) industry in 15 European Union countries from 1990 to 2012. Using different panel data estimators, we find that public R&D investments, policies supporting RE and per capita income all have a positive effect on either innovation creation or diffusion, whereas the variability of policy support has a negative impact on diffusion. However, impacts are heterogeneous and differ depending on the innovation dimension considered. Most importantly, we find that economic growth is a stronger driver of RE diffusion than technology-push or exogenous demand-pull mechanisms, whereas it is relatively ineffective at stimulating innovation creation. The effect of economic growth on RE diffusion exhibits a nonlinear, U-shaped pattern that resonates with the Environmental Kuznets Curve hypothesis. RE penetration remains negligible at low levels of growth whereas it increases sharply only after income per capita has reached a given threshold. This effect has both a direct cause (with increased affluence demand for environmental quality rises) and an indirect cause (with increased affluence expensive RE policies become more affordable and get implemented more extensively). Our findings have implications for policy making. They suggest that for RE diffusion to increase, innovation policies should be carefully balanced. Government action should be directed not only at shielding renewables from competition with fossil fuel technologies, but also at stimulating aggregated demand and economic growth.

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