Dutch government could do more to promote sustainable energy

February 15, 2007

Dutch researcher Simona Negro discovered that seven key factors exert a major influence on the success or failure of sustainable energy in the Netherlands. The Dutch government is good at knowledge development and diffusion, but is failing to adequately fulfil the other five factors needed for successful innovation.

The Dutch government's energy policy is characterised by capriciousness, lack of a constant vision with respect to the direction of search and little enthusiasm for developing a reliable market for sustainable energy. Consequently many fantastic technologies are devised, but it remains very risky for entrepreneurs to start on a new technological venture. A comparison with Germany has demonstrated that entrepreneurs there have it far easier due to a better-functioning innovation system.

Simona Negro made these statements following her historical analysis of four sustainable energy technologies: biomass digestion, biomass gasification, biomass combustion and co-combustion of biomass in coal-fired power stations. Her research revealed that the success of these technologies not only depends on technological performance but mainly on the environment in which these technologies are developed and applied. This environment is called the innovation system.

The better the innovation system functions are fulfilled, the greater the chance of technological success. How well the innovation system functions is determined by seven factors: (1) entrepreneurial activities, (2) knowledge development, (3) knowledge diffusion, (4) guidance of the search (5) market formation, (6) resource mobilisation, and (7) advocacy coalitions formation. The Netherlands was found to be particularly good in two of these factors, namely, knowledge development and knowledge diffusion. Stimulating conditions for entrepreneurial activities are often absent due to a poor realisation of the other factors.

The PhD study 'Dynamics of Technological Innovation Systems - The case of biomass energy' was part of the programme 'BioPUSH: integrated strategies for identifying optimal BIOenergy Production and Utilisation Systems' funded by the NWO/SenterNovem Stimulation Programme Energy research. The programme aims to develop the natural and social sciences knowledge needed for the transition to a sustainable energy supply.
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Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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