Public policy plays an important role in incentivizing a transition of the energy sector towards technologies with low greenhouse gas emissions. However, measuring policy is not easy – especially as policy instruments interact in policy mixes. ETH Zurich’s Energy Politics Group (EPG) has developed a new method of measuring policy content and built a database to analyze the energy policy mixes of various OECD and non-OECD countries.

The many externalities and market failures involved in technological change – particularly in the energy sector – require the use of numerous policies, which interact in policy mixes. While several conceptual studies on policy mixes have been published recently, there is very little empirical research into the composition of such mixes apart from single case or small-n studies. At EPG we address this gap by developing new methods and a policy database. Importantly, we go beyond simply counting instruments but instead code each policy’s content expressed through its design features. Exemplary design features are a policy’s intensity (i.e., how many resources and administrative efforts are devoted to it). A higher intensity increases a policy’s chances of reaching its targets. Another important design feature is the technology specificity (i.e., whether a policy is technology-neutral, or targets specific sector, a technological field or even individual technologies). Figure 1 features the intensity of the Swiss and German renewable energy policy mix at four technology-specificity levels. The database is currently exploited to analyze the effects of policy mixes on the deployment of different low-carbon technologies, but also to assess whether policies’ design features predict their temporal persistence.


Figure 1: The intensity of the German and the Swiss renewable energy policy mix by technology-specificity levels.

Source: Schmidt, T.S. and Sewerin, S., 2018. Measuring the temporal dynamics of policy mixes–An empirical analysis of renewable energy policy mixes’ balance and design features in nine countries. Research Policy (open access to paper).

EPG’s project on measuring policy mixes is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, project number PYAPP1_166905) and led by Dr. Sebastian Sewerin and Prof. Tobias Schmidt, a member of the Energy Science Center. The project is part of EPG’s work stream on politics of policy change, which is described in detail here.

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