Globalization of Clean Energy Technology: Lessons from China.

AuthorDahl, Carol

Globalization of Clean Energy Technology: Lessons from China, by Kelly Sims Gallagher (MIT Press, 2014), 278 pages, ISBN 9780262026987 (hardcover) ISBN 9780262533737 (paperback).

Technology will undoubtably play a crucial role in the global transition to clean energy. More and better technology that diffuses faster will improve our chances of meeting global clean energy targets. Kelly Sims Gallagher's overarching target in this book is to investigate the barriers and incentives to such technology transfer for four technologies, drawing on the experience of China. At the time of publication, she was purely an academic, but subsequently gained direct policy experience in both the White House and State Department.

This well-researched, well-argued, and well-documented book is now seven years old. Thus, some of the cost and technology discussion are dated in these rather rapidly evolving markets. Nevertheless, I found it a worthwhile read for its challenge to some of our conventional views and a foundation to further explore clean energy technology transfer with China. It presents another and earlier point of view for some selected energy technology transfer in the ongoing contentious debate on unfair Chinese technology transfer (see for example. Office of the United States Trade Representative (2018)).

Economists looking for detailed policy recommendations are likely to find the policy discussion simplistic and repetitive. They are also likely to find that no mention of the potential advantages of market-based policies is a missed opportunity. However, readers looking for a discussion of the four clean energy cases studies, historical and institutional information on Chinese environmental and property rights laws and institutions, and a comparison of clean energy technology transfer from both Chinese and non-Chinese points of view will be well rewarded.

The usual justifications for clean energy are provided at the outset--environmental issues, energy security, and jobs and economic growth. Less familiar and more interesting to me was the delineation of mechanisms for international transfer of clean technologies, the main focus of the book. Technology may be begged, borrowed (stolen), or bought in a variety of ways. Exports and imports of final goods may have clean technology embedded in them. Firms may contract with a foreign firm, purchase a technology license, or even purchase the whole firm. Alternatively, alliances may be formed including international joint ventures along with collaborations among firms, universities, government organizations, and international research organizations. Human international migration for work and study may transfer technology as well. Other information transfer mechanisms include conferences, workshops, books, papers, patents, and technology agreements between governments.

Four case studies on gas turbines, solar photovoltaics (PV), advanced vehicle batteries, and coal gasification are based on interviews with Chinese and foreign firms dealing with China. The cases yield four main findings. The barriers to clean energy technology transfer are not as large as generally believed. Nor is intellectual property or lack of access to technology in emerging markets a serious barrier. Lack of finance has not been a barrier in China, but is more so elsewhere, even in rich countries. Fourth, the biggest barrier to global commercialization of cleaner energy technology is the lack of consistent and effective government policy.

Chapter 2 starts with an overview of Chinese economic and energy development, which will be a good introduction for some. Because of China's success in clean energy, Gallagher suggests it makes a good laboratory for the study of clean energy diffusion. Further, the uniqueness of China and opposing opinions of China's clean energy industry as a threat or as an opportunity...

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