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Bottom-Up Energy Transition Narratives: Linking the Global with the Local? A Comparison of Three German Renewable Co-Ops

Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH—UFZ, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
Institute of Sociology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, 07743 Jena, Germany
Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, Justus Liebig University Giessen, 35390 Giessen, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 924;
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 5 March 2018 / Accepted: 20 March 2018 / Published: 22 March 2018
PDF [685 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


Bottom-up transition narratives help to enable the implementation of energy transitions. Yet, scholarship shows that little light has been shed on how bottom-up transition narratives change during the course of transition. By proposing a framework that envisions bottom-up transition narratives, we analyze narratives on three German bottom-up renewable energy initiatives to address this gap. Relying on semi-structured interviews with innovators and adopters, we show that, during the establishment phase, the analyzed narratives take non-place-bound factors like climate change as a point of contention. At the same time, narratives underscore place-bound factors as, for instance, civil society’s knowledge and participation as means for an alternative, non-rent-seeking energy system. During the adoption phase, the analyzed narratives travel easily. This represents a paradox because bottom-up energy transition narratives move beyond their local, place-bound origin in order to be reproduced in different spatial settings. By so doing, bottom-up energy transition narratives diverge from their original message. By falling short on the promotion of citizen’s participation, they begin to promote sociotechnical systems that differ little from the sociotechnical systems from competing, rent-seeking energy industries during the innovation adoption pathway. Our comparative approach outlines how bottom-up energy transition narratives adapt to this trade-off during innovation adoption events. We discuss what this means for bottom-up energy transitions and conclude that bottom-up energy transition narratives are faced with a fixity–travel dilemma during the adoption phase. View Full-Text
Keywords: narrative; energy transition; space; bottom-up; adoption of innovation narrative; energy transition; space; bottom-up; adoption of innovation

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David, M.; Schönborn, S. Bottom-Up Energy Transition Narratives: Linking the Global with the Local? A Comparison of Three German Renewable Co-Ops. Sustainability 2018, 10, 924.

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