A critical review of discursive approaches in energy transitions

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This article critically reviews the use of discursive approaches in studies of sustainable energy transitions. The review is motivated by calls to further incorporate social scientific methodologies into energy research and assess their contribution to policy. We strive to answer three questions: (1) which discursive approaches have been used to study sustainable energy transitions; (2) what thematic topics and issue areas have been covered and (3) what is the added value of discursive research designs? Our analysis is based on a review of 77 articles from the years 2004–2016. Our findings show that discursive approaches were mostly used to analyse institutional change and policy strategies at the national level and to examine energy choices through political ideology and the perceptions of publics. Nuclear power received most coverage, while renewable energy technologies were mainly studied through conflicts and opposition. We demonstrate discursive research designs to examine four distinct policy areas and discuss the added value of these approaches for energy policy and research. Discursive methodologies enable scholars to enrich policy discussions through accounting for transitions as complex and dynamic processes of change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number128
JournalEnergy Policy
Pages (from-to)930-942
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • 5142 Social policy
  • qualitative methodology
  • literature review
  • discourse
  • energy policy
  • sustainability transitions
  • socio-technical change

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