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Assessing the commercial maturity of renewable energy technologies - moving beyond technology readiness

Understanding the policy and market conditions that enable renewable energy technologies to get to market – using the Commercial Readiness Index (CRI) assessment method as a tool in renewable energy policy design

Renewable energy technologies

Publication date: May 2017

 

Emerging renewable energy technologies (RETs) face many challenges to get to market, including high up-front capital requirements, long payback periods, regulatory uncertainty, and perceived risks of new solutions.

Understanding the policy and market conditions that enable renewable energy technologies to get to market - or hinder them from doing so - is necessary for effective policy making. The Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) index is the de facto standard for assessing the technical development of emerging RETs on their journey from basic technology research to proven function. However, beyond technical development, RETs also need to prove their commercial viability.

 

The IEA RETD TCP has commissioned a study to assess the commercial maturity of renewable energy technologies using the Commercial Readiness Index (CRI) framework in order to identify appropriate policy approaches for stimulating deployment. The CRI is a novel framework developed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) that aims to provide a complementary index to the TRLs by moving beyond assessing the technical performance of technologies towards an evaluation of the commercial readiness.

The study explores the use of the CRI framework through case studies with the aim of illustrating the commercialisation journey of two RETs in two different contexts: solar photovoltaics (PV) in Germany and offshore wind in the UK.

Our case studies show the value of the Commercial Readiness Index (CRI) as a tool for;

  1. Communicating the importance of market conditions beyond technical performance for RETs, and
  2. Illustrating the historical commercialisation journey of a technology.

 

The indicators assessed through the CRI help to prompt policy makers to consider a range of barriers faced by RETs – from regulatory, to financial, to supply chain and more. It can be used to show which historical policies were effective, or not, at addressing these commercialisation barriers. However, the CRI as a stand-alone tool has limitations if it is used to support future policy making. The study proposes some modifications to the CRI which build on the existing framework to make it more useful and applicable for policy makers looking to scale-up renewable energy technologies.

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