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The impact of policy on the low-carbon transition: opening the black box of energy technologies

When Jun 26, 2018
from 02:30 PM to 03:30 PM
Where Rayleigh Seminar Room. Maxwell Centre
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Speaker: Professor Laura AnadonDepartment of Land Economy, University of Cambridge

This talk will present a paper explaining why China has about twice the installed wind capacity in the United States, but gets about the same energy out. We develop a framework to explain the performance of the Chinese and US wind sectors, accounting for a comprehensive set of driving factors. We apply this framework to a novel dataset of virtually all wind farms installed in China and the United States through the end of 2013. We first estimate the wind sector’s technical potential using a methodology that produces consistent estimates for both countries. Our findings underscore that the larger gap between actual performance and technical potential in China compared to the United States is significantly driven by delays in grid connection (14% of the gap) and curtailment due to constraints in grid management (10% of the gap), two challenges of China’s wind power expansion covered extensively in the literature. However, our findings show that China’s underperformance is also driven by suboptimal turbine model selection (31% of the gap), wind farm siting (23% of the gap), and turbine hub heights (6% of the gap)—factors that have received less attention in the literature and, crucially, are locked-in for the lifetime of wind farms. This suggests that besides addressing grid connection delays and curtailment, China will also need policy measures to address turbine siting and technology choices to achieve its national goals and increase utilization up to US levels.

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