Technological change in energy - WITCH

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Model Documentation - WITCH

Corresponding documentation
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Model information
Model link
Institution European Institute on Economics and the Environment (RFF-CMCC EIEE), Italy,
Solution concept General equilibrium (closed economy)
Solution method Optimization

One of the main features of the WITCH model is the characterization of endogenous technical change. Albeit difficult to model, technological innovation is key to the decoupling of economic activity from environmental degradation, and the ability to induce it using appropriate policy instruments is essential for a successful climate agreement, as highlighted also in the Bali Action Plan.

Both innovation and diffusion processes are modeled. We distinguish dedicated R&D investments for enhancing energy efficiency from investments aimed at facilitating the competitiveness of innovative low carbon technologies (backstops) in both the electric and non-electric sectors. R&D processes are subject to stand-on-shoulders as well on neighbors effects. Specifically, international spillovers of knowledge are accounted for to mimic the flow of ideas and knowledge across countries. Finally, experience processes via Learning-by-Doing are accounted for in the development of niche technologies such as renewable energy (Wind&Solar) and the backstops.

International spillovers of knowledge and experience

Learning processes via knowledge investments and experience are not likely to remain within the boundaries of single countries, but to spill to other regions too. The effect of international spillovers is deemed to be important, and its inclusion in integrated assessment models desirable, since it allows for a better representation of the innovation market failures and for specific policy exercises.

The WITCH model is particularly suited to perform this type of analysis, since its game theoretic structure allows distinguishing first- and second-best strategies, and thus to quantify optimal portfolios of policies to resolve all the externalities arising in global problems such as climate change.

WITCH features spillovers of experience for Wind&Solar in that the Learning-by-Doing effect depended on world cumulative installed capacity, so that single regions could benefit from investments in virtuous countries, thus leading to strategic incentives. An enhanced version was developed to include spillovers in knowledge for energy efficiency improvements.

Energy knowledge depends not only on regional investments in energy R&D, but also on the knowledge stock that has been accumulated in other regions. Similarly to the Learning-By-Doing for Wind&Solar, WITCH assumes experience accrues with the diffusion of technologies at the global level. We also assume knowledge spills internationally. The amount of spillovers entering each world region depends on a pool of freely available knowledge and on the ability of each country to benefit from it, i.e. on its absorption capacity. Knowledge acquired from abroad combines with domestic knowledge stock and investments and thus contributes to the production of new technologies at home.