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Patterns of attention to renewable energy in the British farming press from 1980 to 2013

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  • Ehlers, Melf-Hinrich
  • Sutherland, Lee-Ann

Abstract

The farming sector is a major actor in developing renewable energy, providing sites, feedstock and investment. Media coverage can both drive and reflect levels of interest in renewable energy, and affect policy support and farmer decision-making about deployment. This paper presents a content analysis of attention to renewable energy in the British farming press from 1980 to 2013, identifying the topics which sparked sustained media interest. Cycles of increased attention to specific types of renewable energy are made evident through quantification of article frequencies and qualitative analysis of content. The findings contribute to the explanation of the role of information in the diffusion of renewable energy. Wind energy and liquid biofuels have received the most attention, with multiple attention cycles, whereas photovoltaics and anaerobic digestion have received focused attention only in recent years. Policy changes, particularly support measures, emerge as the most important driver of media attention, although public controversies, particularly in relation to wind energy, lead to longer periods of attention. Attention typically increases when opportunities in renewable energy emerge and then quickly shifts to a longer stage of focused attention, in which opportunities, problems and solutions are explored and advice is offered, before attention declines. The media thus clearly play a role in informing farmers about opportunities arising in relation to renewable energy technology and policy developments, but are less helpful in providing on-going and consistent information about recurrent and more complex problems. Thus the farming press appears likely to have the strongest impact on ‘early adopters’ of renewable technologies, but is unlikely to contribute to diffusion at later stages, when potential adopters are less willing to bear uncertainties.

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  • Ehlers, Melf-Hinrich & Sutherland, Lee-Ann, 2016. "Patterns of attention to renewable energy in the British farming press from 1980 to 2013," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 959-973.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:54:y:2016:i:c:p:959-973
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2015.10.082
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