Understanding the Social Dynamics of Energy Regions—The Importance of Discourse Analysis
Regional initiatives pursuing self-sufficiency through the use of renewable energy sources (RESS-initiatives) aim at contributing to broader transitions towards more sustainable energy systems. As such, they have raised high expectations among local activists and are increasingly supported by diverse funding schemes such as national programs. How can the social dynamics entangled in these initiatives be understood and assessed? A discourse analytical perspective, such as the Argumentative Discourse Analysis developed by Hajer, can bring valuable insights in this regard. This approach highlights the formation of discourse coalitions and processes of discourse structuration and institutionalization. In order to illustrate my conceptual and methodological considerations, I present an analysis of discursive dynamics observed in the alpine district of Murau, Austria, where the vision of reaching ‘energy autarky’ by the year 2015 has influenced regional development plans since 2003. The chosen discourse analytical approach has been very helpful in guiding the analysis of this case. Specific local conditions can explain why certain visions gained discursive hegemony.
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