Survival of the greenest: evolutionary economics and policies for energy innovation
This paper aims to explore the possible contribution of evolutionary economics to environmental policy-making, in particular with respect to innovations in energy technology. Evolutionary economics offers insights into the mechanisms that underlie innovations, structural changes and transitions, therefore making it of great value in framing policies aimed at stimulating environmental innovations and transitions to sustainable development. The paper identifies 'bounded rationality', 'diversity', 'innovation', 'selection', 'path dependency and lock-in', and 'co-evolution' as the main concepts in evolutionary economics. These concepts are subsequently used to formulate guidelines for designing energy innovation policies. We evaluate current Dutch policies related to energy technologies against this background and examine the development of three particular energy technologies within the adopted evolutionary economics framework, namely fuel cells, nuclear fusion, and photovoltaic cells. We conclude that in order to incorporate the core concepts of evolutionary economics, governmental technology policies should focus more on the diversity of technologies, strategies and businesses, rather than on economic efficiency as the key goal. It is further found that evolutionary concepts conflicting with traditional growth objectives are rarely incorporated in Dutch energy innovation policies.