Large-scale technologies require large projects, with a large share in the projects taken by large companies. The large-scale assignments for technology development, production and implementation of large-scale technologies would be similar in size and structure to the projects run within the space program, in which large industry incumbents in many industries have participated.
Large-scale technology projects for power generation systems, and fuels and engines, would solve emission problems for a large number of consumers or companies in one go, on a large scale. We may also think of large projects, involving the construction of a number of power plants, using sustainable technology, which would be built in a number of urban areas at the same time. Each project may involve investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, and this would reduce emissions for the power and heat generation for a large number of households at the same time. We could also think of a project involving the implementation of a new public transportation system, which could be implemented in several regions at a time and solve the transportation needs of a large number of people.
This type of project is very large, but it requires a completely different type of administration, and project management, compared to small-scale technology projects. It could be argued that they also contain a different type of complexity, since they mainly involve technology companies and the management of technology development and production. The projects would represent a number of large-scale construction projects in a number of different geographical locations. These projects could also involve the manufacture of production resources for the necessary renewable fuels.
The reason for the government to be involved in the management and financing of this type of project would be that the size of the investment in many of these cases, and the risk involved for any company that would try to undertake it under pure market conditions, could in many cases (as is probably the case for renewable fuels and engine technologies) be too large. In some cases, political decisions about the content and structure of future production and distribution systems may be sufficient in order for large companies to invest. In other cases direct investment in technology projects may be necessary in order to drive development forward. It could also be the case that the payback time for investments, as in the development of general purpose technologies, may be too long, or it may involve the replacement of resources that have not yet finished their technical or economical lives. In any case, as has already been argued, it would be difficult for many companies to voluntarily drive this type of project at the high speed that will probably be needed in order to rapidly enough reduce energy consumption.
In the case of engine technologies and fuels, we are looking at projects that involve technology development and the creation of systems for the mass production of vehicles that will be using the new technologies. This type of project may also need to establish a new network of filling stations or charging stations for the vehicles, and production and distribution facilities for fuels. The need for large production facilities for vehicles and fuels and a large-scale geographical network of filling stations adds aspects to this type of project that are not present in the case of large-scale power plant projects.
These different aspects of complexity of projects, and the challenges that need to be mastered in each case, influence the risk, investment and cost of projects. They also influence the time it will take in order to realize the potential energy savings of each project. As we will see in Part III, each alternative technology, and the projects that will be based on each technology, will need to be evaluated on its own merits.
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