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The Federal Photovoltaics Commercialization Program


Pegram, William Manson (1989) The Federal Photovoltaics Commercialization Program. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/vsaa-th63.


The dissertation presents a political and economic history of the federal government's program to commercialize photovoltaic energy for terrestrial use. Chapter 1 is a detailed history of the program. Chapter 2 is a brief review of the Congressional roll call voting literature. Chapter 3 develops PV benefit measures at the state and Congressional district level necessary for an econometric analysis of PV roll call voting. Chapter 4 presents the econometric analysis.

Because PV power was considerably more expensive than conventional power, the program was designed to make PV a significant power source in the long term, emphasizing research and development, although sizeable amounts have been spent for procurement (direct government purchases and indirectly through tax credits). The decentralized R and D program pursued alternative approaches in parallel, with subsequent funding dependent on earlier progress. Funding rose rapidly in the 1970s before shrinking in the 1980s. Tax credits were introduced in 1978, with the last of the credits due to expire this year.

Major issues in the program have been the appropriate magnitude of demonstrations and government procurement, whether decentralized, residential use or centralized utility generation would first be economic, the role of storage in PV, and the role of PV in a utility's generation mix.

Roll call voting on solar energy (all votes analyzed occurred from 1975-1980) was influenced in a cross-sectional sense by all the influences predicted: party and ideology, local economic benefits of the technology, local PV federal spending and manufacturing, and appropriations committee membership. The cross-sectional results for ideology are consistent with the strongly ideological character of solar energy politics and the timing of funding increases and decreases discussed in Chapter 1. Local PV spending and manufacturing was less significant than ideology or the economic benefits of the technology. Because time series analysis of the votes was not possible, it is not possible to test the role of economic benefits to the nation as a whole.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Social Science
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Reinganum, Jennifer F.
Thesis Committee:
  • Ledyard, John O. (chair)
  • Davis, Lance E.
  • Dubin, Jeffrey A.
  • Kiewiet, D. Roderick
  • Noll, Roger G.
  • Reinganum, Jennifer F.
Defense Date:8 March 1989
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06042013-140546131
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7833
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:04 Jun 2013 21:43
Last Modified:22 Sep 2021 20:46

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