Do it yourself, together: a discourse analysis on how people talk about local initiatives for renewable energy

Joana Duarte, Annette Klarenbeek, T. Baetens, Marije Zegwaard

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This study aims at examining the ways people communicate about energy transition, by analyzing the discourse of different stakeholders in a case of a local initiative for renewable energy. When moving from traditional to renewable energy, social acceptance of new technologies is of central importance, as public opposition can have extremely negative consequences for transition projects (Wuestenhagen, Wolsink & Buerer 2007). In order to get insights into the frames used by citizens when talking about energy transition, we chose a successful case of a local energy initiative from the northern of the Netherlands committed to supporting citizens in generating their own energy. Drawing on a corpus of online data, we conducted a discourse analysis from a discursive socioconstructivist perspective (Edwards 1994; Potter 1996) in order to examine examples of active social engagement in which local initiatives and citizens contribute to sustainability by generating their own energy (Bosman et. al 2013; Schwenke 2012). The main aim was to identify the frames that play a role in the discourse about successful local energy initiatives and allow us to better grasp the dynamics behind this type of upstream social engagement movements. Our results stress out the need for local initiatives to develop a discursive strategy that specifically distances itself from centralist approaches by stressing out the local aspect of energy transition, in opposition to national government approaches, as well as the social aspect of jointly improving the environment. The frames found are thus aimed at establishing contrasts in relation to institutions and approaches in which the public has gained distrust, on the one hand, and at constructing new collective identities with a shared vision, on the other. These results shed a light to the ways in which energy transition can be framed in order to increase local acceptance for renewable energy projects.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGroningen
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • communication
  • renewable energy
  • discours analysis


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