Ohlendorf, N., Löhr, M., Markard, J.

Actors in multi-sector transitions - discourse analysis on hydrogen in Germany

in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 09.02.2023

Peer Review , Climate and Development

With net-zero emission goals, low-carbon transitions enter a new phase of development, leading to new challenges for policymaking and research. Multiple transitions unfold in parallel across different sectors. This involves a broad range of technologies, while actors engage in increasingly complex discourses. Here, we study the discourses on hydrogen in Germany. Based on the analysis of 179 newspaper articles from 2016 to 2020, we find that a diverse set of actors, including many industry incumbents, speak favorably about hydrogen, emphasizing economic opportunities and its relevance for the energy transition, whereas skeptics highlight its low energy efficiency and expected scarcity. With the help of discourse network analysis, we identify three emerging conflicts around the use, production, and import of hydrogen. We explain these conflicts and the widespread support of incumbents with a conceptual framework that captures the complex interplay of sectoral contexts, specific technologies and actor interests.