Dr. Sheng Zhong

Moving Towards an Energy Efficient Future: Essays on Energy Efficiency, Technology and Development

Year: 2017

Bart Verspagen & Nicola Cantore


Energy efficiency is a key element in the pursuit of sustainable development. This dissertation provides a comprehensive narrative of how energy efficiency and the technologies related to energy efficiency evolve. (1) We develop a new analytical framework and several measures for crucial factors affecting energy consumption and energy efficiency in trade across sectors and countries. The results show energy consumption increases caused by development can be roughly offset by reducing the energy intensity and lowering energy intensity within sectors is the overwhelming factor behind the decline in aggregate energy intensity. (2) Based on large datasets of individual vehicles and their owners in Massachusetts, we design a statistical approach to estimate regional aggregate vehicle energy efficiency formed by the vehicle’s technological characteristics and behaviors of owners (e.g., purchase and usage of vehicles and migration), and describe the life cycle of the vehicle population. Our results confirm the importance of reallocation of new vehicles for the growth of aggregate vehicle energy efficiency and the convergence of aggregate vehicle energy efficiency between municipalities. (3) Also, we identify the technological trajectories of energy efficiency technologies using big data on patents, and develop some measures for classifying incumbent or latecomer countries, and for how much a country contributes to technological development. The results show latecomer countries tend to contribute less to the main technological trajectories related to energy efficiency. The approaches that build aggregate measures using microdata are of great value for the study of economic dynamics and can overcome the limitations of prior studies (e.g., heterogeneity and representative agent). The optimal path method using patent citation networks may inspire studies in any other technological fields, and enable policymakers and investors to monitor technological development and discover business opportunities.

Selected publications by Sheng Zhong