PV innovation must be holistically managed for DTs to be effective

The AIM report analyses DTs in PV and wind energy to identify lessons for DT design in relation to the overall innovation process. It argues that R&D, DTs and offline test centers need to come together to give the long-term commitment that innovation requires.

"The justification for government-funded DTs is the public good," says Chris Hendry of City University, London. "But if the innovation process is not managed as a whole, as the US experience in wind and photovoltaics has shown, benefits from DTs and R&D will inevitably pass overseas and the public expense will have been wasted."

Publicly funded DTs are widely used to support innovation in energy and reduce the uncertainties of new technologies. In the UK, there is a raft of new DT programs to drive the development of low-carbon technologies. They are used to test technology and promote commercialization. Despite the range of projects funded by the EU, however, it is said that there is often little systematic, public evaluation of DTs.

"When DT programs are not systematically evaluated, their purpose of ensuring lessons are learned is undermined," continued Professor Hendry. "Learning should be paramount. This means effective reporting as well as challenging goals. It’s critical this learning is spread quickly to strengthen national industry and develop national markets.

"But there needs to be a coordinated, sequential approach," he concluded. "DTs shouldn’t promote technology before it’s ready or create false markets. Technology development must be taken to the commercialization stage in a series of smooth transitions."