BC3. Basque centre for climate change – Klima aldaketa ikergai

  1. Home
  2. Publications
  3. Policy Briefings


BC3 Working Papers

BC3 Policy Briefings

Lessons from History for Transitions to a Low Carbon Economy

Keywords: energy transition; low carbon economy; technological innovation

Author(s): Roger Fouquet

Date: 2011-25-01

Issue: 2011-04

  Download this Policy Briefings (158 KB.)

Historical experiences can provide lessons for future transitions to a low carbon economy. Although often considered a single event, the transition from traditional energy sources to fossil fuels in the United Kingdom involved numerous services and sectors at different times between 1500 and 1920.

The main economic drivers identified for energy transitions were the opportunities to produce cheaper or better energy services. The existence of a niche market willing to pay more for these characteristics enabled new energy sources and technologies to be refined gradually until they could compete with the incumbent energy source. Nevertheless, this implied that, on average, the whole innovation chain took more than one hundred years and the diffusion phase nearly fifty years. In the same way, low-carbon energy sources and technologies offer an additional characteristic (i.e. low carbon impact), which might be able to develop gradually in a niche market until they can compete with fossil fuels. However, because of consumers´ tendency to free-ride, a successful transition will need governments to provide protection of this niche market – possibly for decades. Based on past experiences, a complete transition to a low carbon economy is likely to be very slow.

<< Back to the PB list

We use cookies of our own and of third parties to improve our services and to be able to offer you, by means of web browsing analysis, the best options.
If you continue browsing, we assume that you agree to their use. For further information, please click here.