Leipprand, A.; Flachsland, C.

Regime destabilization in energy transitions: The German debate on the future of coal

in Energy Research & Social Science, 25.02.2018

Peer Review , Governance

Greenhouse gas emissions are stagnating in Germany despite increasing deployment of renewable energy. This makes the government’s Energiewende appear inconsistent and has triggered a discussion on phasing-out coal. The focus has thus turned from niche technology development to the destabilization of the existing high-carbon regime. In this paper we investigate stakeholders’ framings and their perceptions of different policy options to advance the understanding of regime destabilization processes and theory-building in the context of the multi-level perspective (MLP) on socio-technical transitions.

We find that actors still form coalitions with traditional allies and cling to established lines of reasoning, although there are indications for a beginning disintegration of the status quo-defending coalition. In their framings, core actors emphasize risks and threats. This confirms that regime destabilization is particularly conflictual and shows that for actors pushing regime change it is more difficult to offer a positive story. Linking policies for phasing-out incumbent technologies to accompanying measures for managing structural change in affected regions may facilitate compromise. The results moreover point to a tension between national and supra-national action as a core issue in destabilization debates. Our insights are relevant for countries in similar transition phases and may inform future comparative research.

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