Stimulating energy-efficient innovations in the Dutch building sector: Empirical evidence from patent counts and policy lessons

Joëlle Noailly*, Svetlana Batrakova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the Netherlands where the building sector accounts for 33% of carbon emissions, the government aims to halve the total energy use from buildings by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. To this end, the Dutch government has set specific goals in order to foster technological innovation related to energy efficiency in buildings. The objective of this paper is to explore the links between technological innovation and public policies in this sector over the last 30 years. The paper aims (1) to measure the evolution of innovations related to energy efficiency in buildings in the Netherlands using patent counts and (2) to provide a historical overview of the policy framework. Descriptive data on patenting activities show that the Netherlands have a clear comparative advantage in the field of energy-saving lighting technologies, mainly due to intensive patenting activities by Philips. High-efficiency boilers also represent a substantial share of Dutch innovation activities in this domain over the last decades. In many other fields (such as insulation, heat-pumps and cogeneration, solar boilers, etc.), however, Germany, Austria and Scandinavian countries rank much higher than the Netherlands. The descriptive analysis of Dutch energy policy shows an intensification of energy policy in the mid-1990s, followed by a slight decline after 2001. Overall, the simultaneous introduction of policy instruments makes it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of policies. Also, the policy framework is characterized by the introduction of a large number of short-lived policy instruments and frequent policy changes. The lack of stability and continuity of energy policy may be damaging for innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7803-7817
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Buildings
  • Energy policy
  • Innovations


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