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Understanding the Social Dynamics of Energy Regions—The Importance of Discourse Analysis

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  • Philipp Späth


    (IFP—Institute of Forest and Environmental Policy, University of Freiburg, Tennenbacherstrasse 4, Freiburg 79106, Germany)

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    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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    Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

    Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 6 (June)
    Pages: 1-18

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    Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:4:y:2012:i:6:p:1256-1273:d:18369
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    1. Späth, Philipp & Rohracher, Harald, 2010. "'Energy regions': The transformative power of regional discourses on socio-technical futures," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 449-458, May.
    2. Smith, Adrian & Stirling, Andy & Berkhout, Frans, 2005. "The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1491-1510, December.
    3. Coenen, Lars & Raven, Rob & Verbong, Geert, 2009. "Local niche experimentation in energy transitions: a theoretical and empirical exploration of proximity advantages and disadvantages," Papers in Innovation Studies 2009/8, Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy.
    4. Heather Lovell & Harriet Bulkeley & Susan Owens, 2009. "Converging agendas? Energy and climate change policies in the UK," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 27(1), pages 90-109, February.
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