Windpower: what’s old is new again

A Working Paper from Harvard Business School provides a fascinating look at the history and development of wind energy worldwide.  The paper, entitled Historical Trajectories and Corporate Competences in Wind Energy, is still in draft form but is published for comment and discussion. The paper focuses on the the business history of the wind energy industry and finds a historical geographical skew in the adoption of windpower, so skewed that Canada does not even warrant a mention. The paper finds that in 2008, wind supplied one-fifth of Denmark’s electricity, 13% of Portugal’s, and 11% of Spain’s. But in neighboring European countries, including Britain, France and Italy, as well as the United States, wind supplied less than 2% of electricity. In Japan the percentage was a tiny 0.3%.

The reasons for this variation are postulated to be the availability of wind, public policy (“Energy is always political”, energy historian Richard Vietor has observed), and the corporate structure of the industry.

Of particular interest to the current situation in Ontario is one comment in response to the issue of local resident concerns: ” The willingness of governments to explain the benefits of wind energy to their citizens, or else pay them off, is crucial.”

The Working Paper is recommended reading and can be found at http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/11-112.pdf . A summary in a Harvard newsletter can be found at http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6561.html

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