Abandoning the concept of renewable energy

Atte Harjanne*, Janne M. Korhonen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Renewable energy is a widely used term that describes certain types of energy production. In politics, business and academia, renewable energy is often framed as the key solution to the global climate challenge. We, however, argue that the concept of renewable energy is problematic and should be abandoned in favor of more unambiguous conceptualization. Building on the theoretical literature on framing and based on document analysis, case examples and statistical data, we discuss how renewable energy is framed and has come to be a central energy policy concept and analyze how its use has affected the way energy policy is debated and conducted. We demonstrate the key problems the concept of renewable energy has in terms of sustainability, incoherence, policy impacts, bait-and-switch tactics and generally misleading nature. After analyzing these issues, we discuss alternative conceptualizations and present our model of categorizing energy production according to carbon content and combustion. The paper does not intend to criticize or promote any specific form of energy production, but instead discusses the role of institutional conceptualization in energy policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-340
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Policy
Volume127
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Energy policy
  • Framing
  • Institutional theory
  • Renewable energy

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