IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

7.11 Technology Research, Development, Deployment and Diffusion (RDD&D)

Most industrial processes use at least 50% more than the theoretical minimum energy requirement determined by the laws of thermodynamics, suggesting a large potential for energy-efficiency improvement and GHG emission mitigation (IEA, 2006a). However, RDD&D is required to capture these potential efficiency gains and achieve significant GHG emission reductions. Studies have demonstrated that new technologies are being developed and entering the market continuously, and that new technologies offer further potential for efficiency improvement and cost reduction (Worrell et al., 2002).

While this chapter has tended to discuss technologies only in terms of their GHG emission mitigation potential and cost, it is important to realize that successful technologies must also meet a host of other performance criteria, including cost competitiveness, safety, and regulatory requirements; as well as winning consumer acceptance. (These topics are discussed in more detail in Section 7.11.2.) While some technology is marketed as energy-efficient, other benefits may drive the development and diffusion of the technology, as evidenced by a case study of impulse drying in the paper industry, in which the driver was productivity (Luiten and Blok, 2004). This is understandable given that energy cost is just one of the drivers for technology development. Innovation and the technology transfer process are discussed in Section 2.8.2.

Technology RDD&D is carried out by both governments (public sector) and companies (private sector). Ideally, the roles of the public and private sectors will be complementary. Flannery (2001) argued that it is appropriate for governments to identify the fundamental barriers to technology and find solutions that improve performance, including environmental, cost and safety performance, and perhaps customer acceptability; but that the private sector should bear the risk and capture the rewards of commercializing technology. Case studies of specific successful energy-efficient technologies, including shoe press in papermaking (Luiten and Blok, 2003a) and strip casting in the steel industry (Luiten and Blok, 2003b), have shown that a better understanding of the technology and the development process is essential in the design of effective government support of technology development. Government can also play an important role in cultivating ‘champions’ for technology development, and by ‘anchoring’ energy and climate as important continuous drivers for technology development (Luiten and Blok, 2003a).

While GHG mitigation is not the only objective of energy R&D, IEA studies show a mismatch between R&D spending and the contribution of technologies to reduction of CO2 emissions. In its analysis of its Accelerated Technology scenarios, IEA (2006a) found that end-use energy efficiency, much of it in the industrial sector, contributed most to mitigation of CO2 emissions from energy use. It accounted for 39–53% of the projected reduction, except in the scenario that deemphasized these technologies. However, IEA countries spent only 17% of their public energy R&D budgets on energy-efficiency (IEA, 2005).

Many studies have indicated that the technology required to reduce GHG emissions and eventually stabilize their atmospheric concentrations is not currently available (Jacoby, 1998; Hoffert et al., 2002; Edmonds et al., 2003) (medium agreement, medium evidence). While these studies concentrated on energy supply options, they also indicate that significant improvements in end-use energy efficiency will be necessary. Much of the necessary research and development is being carried out in public-private partnerships, for example the US Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program (US DOE, n.d.-b).