Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


David C. Popp


Collaboration, Energy Policy, Network Governance, Technological Change, Technological Learning, Wind Power

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The following dissertation explains how technological change of wind power, in terms of cost reduction and performance improvement, is achieved in China and the US through energy policies, technological learning, and collaboration. The objective of this dissertation is to understand how energy policies affect key actors in the power sector to promote renewable energy and achieve cost reductions for climate change mitigation in different institutional arrangements. The dissertation consists of three essays.

The first essay examines the learning processes and technological change of wind power in China. I integrate collaboration and technological learning theories to model how wind technologies are acquired and diffused among various wind project participants in China through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)—an international carbon trade program, and empirically test whether different learning channels lead to cost reduction of wind power. Using pooled cross-sectional data of Chinese CDM wind projects and spatial econometric models, I find that a wind project developer’s previous experience (learning-by-doing) and industrywide wind project experience (spillover effect) significantly reduce the costs of wind power. The spillover effect provides justification for subsidizing users of wind technologies so as to offset wind farm investors’ incentive to free-ride on knowledge spillovers from other wind energy investors. The CDM has played such a role in China. Most importantly, this essay provides the first empirical evidence of “learning-by-interacting”: CDM also drives wind power cost reduction and performance improvement by facilitating technology transfer through collaboration between foreign turbine manufacturers and local wind farm developers.

The second essay extends this learning framework to the US wind power sector, where I examine how state energy policies, restructuring of the electricity market, and learning among actors in wind industry lead to performance improvement of wind farms. Unlike China, the restructuring of the US electricity market created heterogeneity in transmission network governance across regions. Thus, I add transmission network governance to my learning framework to test the impacts of different transmission network governance models. Using panel data of existing utility-scale wind farms in US during 2001-2012 and spatial models, I find that the performance of a wind project is improved through more collaboration among project participants (learning-by-interacting), and this improvement is even greater if the wind project is interconnected to a regional transmission network coordinated by an independent system operator or a regional transmission organization (ISO/RTO).

In the third essay, I further explore how different transmission network governance models affect wind power integration through a comparative case study. I compare two regional transmission networks, which represent two major transmission network governance models in the US: the ISO/RTO-governance model and the non-RTO model. Using archival data and interviews with key network participants, I find that a centralized transmission network coordinated through an ISO/RTO is more effective in integrating wind power because it allows resource pooling and optimal allocating of the resources by the central network administrative agency (NAO). The case study also suggests an alternative path to improved network effectiveness for a less cohesive network, which is through more frequent resource exchange among subgroups within a large network. On top of that, this essay contributes to the network governance literature by providing empirical evidence on the coexistence of hierarchy, market, and collaboration in complex service delivery networks. These coordinating mechanisms complement each other to provide system flexibility and stability, particularly when the network operates in a turbulent environment with changes and uncertainties.


Open Access