The Revolution in Energy Technology: Innovation and the Economics of the Solar Photovoltaic Industry.

AuthorDahl, Carol

The Revolution in Energy Technology: Innovation and the Economics of the Solar Photovoltaic Industry, by Xue Han and Jorge Niosi (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018). 147 pages, ISBN 13: 9781788115650.

Decade after decade of cost reduction, innovation, and the recent Chinese entry into solar photovoltaic cell (PV) manufacturing have been impressive. These authors focus on this PV technological revolution with the goal of answering questions relating to drivers of this evolution, the global diffusion of solar technologies, and its relationship to China and other developing countries.

In the introductory two chapters, the authors lay out the theoretical framework for their five analytical chapters on innovation--the sectoral system of innovation (SSI). In SSI, agents influence or create, produce and sell a set of products in a sector. Agents (large firms, small firms, public research organizations, universities, and governments) may come from within the producing firm or from outside.

The two main streams in SSI models are sector lifecycle models (which may be product lifecycle or industry lifecycle) and history-driven models. In the lifecycle models, a radical innovation causes the entry of new producers and demand growth with an emphasis on innovation. This eventually leads to a concentrated market and a reduction in innovation. Alternatively, in the history-driven models, a sector may continue to see innovation decade after decade with branching into new products and new markets, which actually may be closer to what we see in the solar PV market.

Since the literature specifically relating to the PV manufacturing sector is not extensive, they also review the literature for related questions in other industries drawing heavily from studies on information, biomedical, and nano- technology. Their tests of the resulting hypotheses from the literature are not formal tests but verbal discussion with numerical support.

They define some of the historical features of the PV sector from their data set. Patent counts are taken from the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it has more photovoltaic patents, it includes more detailed information including the inventor's location, and many patentees in other countries also patent in the United States. PV related publication counts are taken from Scopus. Solar cell efficiency, government policies related to solar PV in Germany, Japan, and the United States and first generation, second-generation...

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