Technical Change Theory and Learning Curves: Patterns of Progress in Energy Technologies


This paper presents a comparative analysis of energy technology learning and progress within the framework of Schumpeter’s invention-innovation-diffusion paradigm. We estimate learning by doing and research rates for a range of energy technologies in four stages of technical progress. Emerging and mature technologies respond slowly to research and development (R&D) and capacity expansion; evolving technologies exhibit high learning-by-doing and research rates; reviving technologies exhibit considerable response to learning-by-research although they do not face significant market constraints. We generally find higher learning-by-doing than learning-by-research rates but do not find any development stage where learning-by-doing alone is the dominant driver of technical change. Also, high capital intensity and market constraints appear to slow down the pace of progress of emerging and evolving technologies. We find little scope for potential substitution between learning-by-doing and learning-by-research across the technologies and different stages of their development path.
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