Competition is not everything

Evolutionary perspectives are important in energy systems. These systems develop momentum and inevitably generate 'lock-in' to dominant technological pathways. These pathways currently generate high levels of carbon emissions and lock-in is made more acute in energy because of the high capital-intensity and the long life of energy assets. Moving the energy system on to a low carbon pathway is also made more difficult by the predominance of a 'neoliberal consensus' model, in which governments believe that private markets possess superior wisdom to state agencies, that competition is the essential underpinning for all energy policy and that policy instruments should utilise market mechanisms wherever possible. Market-related instruments may often be a good policy servant, but if we are to move with urgency on to a low carbon pathway, governments need to take a more interventionist stance, and not automatically endorse competition as a universal underpinning for policy.

Part II Towards a New Agenda

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