The more the merrier? Actors and ideas in the evolution of German hydrogen policy discourse

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Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Energy Research & Social Science
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords Hydrogen policy; Discourse network; Agenda setting; Claim-making; Stakeholders
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Description Hydrogen has set high hopes for decarbonization due to its flexibility and ability to decarbonize sectors of the economy where direct electrification appears unviable. Broad hydrogen policies have therefore started to emerge. Nevertheless, it is still a rather niche technology, not integrated or adopted at scale, and not regulated through particular policy provisions. The involved stakeholders are thus still rushing to set the agenda over the issue. All this plays out publicly and shapes the public discourse. This paper explores how the composition of stakeholders, their positions, and the overall discourse structure have developed and accompanied the political agenda-setting in the early public debate on hydrogen in Germany. We use discourse network analysis of media, where stakeholders' claims-making is documented, and their positions can be tracked over time. The public discourse on hydrogen in Germany shows the expected evolution of statements in connection with the two milestones chosen for the analyses the initiation of the Gas 2030 Dialogue and the publication of the National Hydrogen Strategy. Interestingly, the discourse was comparatively feeble in the immediate aftermath of the respective milestones but intensified in a consolidation phase around half a year later. Sequencing the discourse and contextualizing its content relative to political, societal, and economic conditions in a diachronic way is essential because it helps to avoid misinterpreting the development of stakeholders' standpoints as conflict-driven rather than mere repositioning. Thus, we observed no discourse “polarization” even though potentially polarizing issues were already present in the debate.
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