The legitimation of hydrogen through the construction of future
1PACTE - Social Sciences Research Centre, France; 2Ademe; 3Grenoble - INP, France
The position of hydrogen in the energy transition is more and more discussed in France. Promoters of this energy carrier are attempting to legitimate its use and to make credible, technically and economically, a scale-up deployment. The role of scenarios and demonstrators seems important in the justification work.
This communication conjugates the theorical concept of fictional expectation (Beckert, 2011) with the sociotechnical literature dedicated to scenarios and prospective. Some works highlight the role of discourse in public policies production (Zittoun, 2013). More precisely, some papers concern the actors’ ability to instrumentalize discourse to support a technology, like the sociotechnical studies about rhetorical vision (Sovacool & Ramana, 2015), or, on the opposite, to criticize a controversial element (Chateauraynaud & Debaz, 2013). Moreover, some works investigate the expectations about hydrogen future deployment (Bakker & Budde, 2012). Then, literature emphasizes the collective dimension of the discourse’s construction, with for example the article of Lauber and Schenner about the discursive issue networks around European support mechanism to renewable energies diffusion (Lauber & Schenner, 2011).
The fictional expectation could allow understanding some elements about legitimation process of transition technologies, especially to overcome the counterintuitive mix between imagination and rationality, between fiction and logic.
The main objective of this communication is to understand in what extend scenarios play a supportive role to fictional expectation and then, contribute to the legitimation of hydrogen. In other words, how is hydrogen economically valuated by its promoters through the imagination of future?
This framework will develop a systematic analysis to isolate and define the fictional expectations among discourses. It will allow to observe them and the way they are translated within discourses. This paper will use some works that attempt to systematically encode arguments of actors (Sovacool & Ramana, 2015), but also literature that allow to analyze the meeting of different scenarios (Trencher & van der Heijden, 2019).
This communication proposes to adopt a two-way perspective on Japan and France. Japanese hydrogen sector is one of the most mature around the world, whereas the French one is more emergent. We will essentially use discursive objects, as scenarios, roadmaps, public interviews and interviews.
This communication will highlight the role of fictional expectations, which allow forecasting future profit and growth, in the valuation process of hydrogen and firms committed in hydrogen. By analyzing the collective construction of these expectations, this communication will also underline their political and negotiated aspect. By comparing Japanese and French situations, this communication will show and discuss the role of technology maturity (technical feasibility, economic efficiency, change of scale…) and politic maturity (cohesion and stability of the discursive strategy, means collectively dedicated by actors) in the legitimation process of a fictional expectation. It will show how they can be fragilized because of a lack of substances and stabilization.
Contribution to Scholarship
This communication allows the management research community to better understand the discursive strategies actors use to promote hydrogen, and, on a broader level, transition technologies. It helps to identify the logical limits of an expectation about future profits or growth rates, by examining the fictional roots of a scenario.
Contribution to Practice
On a practical plan, this work allows to establish a cartography of arguments used to promote hydrogen. It allows to identify the coalitions around one specific scenario and then, to possibly find micro-controversies within this sector. Moreover, it could give to promoters of a discussed transition technology some tools for building a better support strategy.
This communication is relevant to the track 11.3, insofar it approaches the EET through the meso-level, by focusing on the socioeconomic construction of arguments and discursive strategies promoting hydrogen.
Bakker, S., & Budde, B. (2012). Technological hype and disappointment: lessons from the hydrogen and fuel cell case, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 24(6), 549-563.
Beckert, J. (2011). Imagined Futures: Ficitonal expectations in the economy. Theory and Society, 1–32.
Chateauraynaud, F., & Debaz, J. (2013). Scénariser les possibles énergétiques. Les gaz de schiste dans la matrice des futurs. Mouvements, 75(3), 53.
Lauber, V., & Schenner, E. (2011). The struggle over support schemes for renewable electricity in the european union: A discursive-institutionalist analysis. Environmental Politics, 20(4), 508–527.
Sovacool, B. K., & Ramana, M. V. (2015). Back to the Future: Small Modular Reactors, Nuclear Fantasies, and Symbolic Convergence. Science Technology and Human Values, 40(1), 96–125.
Trencher, G., & van der Heijden, J. (2019). Contradictory but also complementary: National and local imaginaries in Japan and Fukushima around transitions to hydrogen and renewables. Energy Research and Social Science, 49(September 2018), 209–218.
Zittoun, P. (2013). Entre définition et propagation des énoncés de solution. Revue Française de Science Politique, Vol.63(3), 625.
How does a centralized industrial operator such as RTE integrate the different levels of actions necessary to tackle energy transition? The example of self-consumption in France.
The answer to this issue will be articulated in three parts. The first one will present the stakes for the French transmission system operator, RTE, in the context of energy transition.
In the second part, the example of self-consumption will be developed through different levels of analysis, explaining for each one the position of RTE and the first results of R&D.
The third part will conclude on the problematic, offering the opportunity to open on other technical subjects facing the same multi-scale analysis challenges and the impacts these challenges might have on RTE’s organization as a whole.
1) Stakes for RTE in the energy transition context
Energy transition carries technological and societal innovations which collide with the historical model that has driven the action of RTE for decades.
The construction of the French electricity transmission system has been thought, both technically and politically, in a more and more centralized way over the past century.
So, one of the main point of interest is the change of scale resulting from energy transition in action, in which RTE needs to settle its action and strategy.
In particular, the move towards decentralization initiated by energy transition, leads RTE to reconsider its role in the French and European energy system.
The social innovations driven by local communities and local authorities bring out new issues for the system and grid operation. RTE is torn between different levels of action (from the European level to the very local one). The company needs to confirm its role of link between those different levels to guaranty the energy solidarity between them.
Among the solutions that can be given to this challenge, RTE decided to implement a research program in social sciences to better grasp and tackle those changes at all levels: individual’s behaviours, communities’ projects, local authorities’ or state’s public policies.
In general, R&D projects used to focus only on technological matters. Integrating a social sciences approach enables technical R&D projects to go through all the levels of societal innovations.
2) An example of multi-scales case study : the self-consumption in France
Self-consumption is an example of a technical R&D project combined to a social sciences approach and connecting different levels of analysis.
RTE needs to study the impact of self-consumption in order to assess its ability to balance generation and consumption and to let energy flow over the grid to where it is needed. It is crucial to integrate in R&D studies the willingness of individuals to access to self-consumption technologies, as a switch from a centralized generation mix to a largely decentralized one is expected to strongly alter the flows, modify the levers to balance load and generation, and make operation more complex.
At the micro level, self-consumption depends on individuals’ behaviours and willingness to use technologies such as solar panels to produce their own electricity, which certainly are not limited to purely economic motivations. Today, individuals are largely passive in their interaction with the energy system.
Studies like the European project H2020 ENABLE.EU point out the importance of individual choices and individual characteristics in energy choices and focuses on solar panel for self-consumption.
To address this issue, RTE ordered a study on individuals’ energy choices in France including questions about self-consumption.
At the meso level, new forms of collective organization are arising especially in the field of renewable energies productions. Historically, French local authorities used to have a role in the energy system design as promoters for the rural electrification of the country. As a result, they own today (directly or indirectly) most of the distribution grid, but they have been given recently new competencies concerning energy policies.
To deal with this challenge, RTE is directing studies in political sciences about communities’ and territories’ new forms of action. The purpose is to measure how self-consumption can be seen as a new form of collective organisation and territorial solidarity.
At the macro level, two categories of actors come into play: political authorities (national and European) on one side, and market players on the other (big utilities, network operators, associations of vested interest…). Each actor of the energy system has its own stance on the subject of self-consumption.
Contribution to Scholarship
The pro and the cons are arguing. They try to find a way to tackle this technological innovation, which seems to generate an increasing interest from the society, while defending their own interests.
Those assessments lead RTE to find a good balance between local willpower and global optimization of the electric system. Self-consumption, particularly at a collective level is a good example of the difficulties the system operator can encounter to position itself between different levels of expectations.
RTE has to remain neutral in the debate while enlightening decision-makers. In order to cope with this multi-level challenge, RTE studies the consequences (technical, financial and societal) on the electric system of the self-consumption development at a large scale.
3) Conclusions and opening
The conclusion will present some answers RTE can bring to the debate for a better structuring between scales of actions and analysis.
Contribution to Practice
But it will also demonstrate how the subject of self-consumption is one of many.
The first opening offers to broach the fact that those different levels of analysis are present in other R&D projects. For example, creating a multi-energies approach implies to get out of RTE’s electric mono-industry vision. This leads RTE to find a new positioning towards its historical partners (such as regulatory authorities or other European system operators). RTE needs to get closer of new economic agents like industrialists. This approach involves also local authorities and individuals.
The second opening suggests that this issue finally question also the position of R&D teams within the company. The R&D projects have a more and more strategic or territorial positioning.
They get close to boundaries of operational studies (adequacy studies, grid development plans, which are given a wide public dissemination), communication or public affairs functions. The challenge of energy transition management is also a question of internal organization and coordination.
Is the dominant discourse of risk in finance an obstacle to integrate climate risks ?
i3 - CRG, École polytechnique
In 2016, the European Systemic Risk Board reported that a fast energy transition will generate ‘transition risks’ for financial institutions that may induce a global systemic risk (ESRB, 2016). But two years later, only 19% of the French institutional investors have conducted a climate risks analysis (Novethic, 2018).
The cognitive science approach assumes that risks are objective (they exist as a reality) and knowable (they can be calculated). On the other hand, socio-cultural theories consider that risk is not objective, but constructed on belief systems and culture. Our research is based on this socio-cultural approach applied in finance (Millo and MacKenzie, 2009, Power et al., 2013).
We consider a discourse as a set of texts, speeches and practices “that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault, 1979 ; Lupton, 2013 ; Potter and Wetherell, 1987) and that can be dominant when these texts, speeches and practices build convergent and widely accepted descriptions and explanations of phenomena, considered as a “truth” for a given set of actors (Phillips et al. 2004). The discourse then became an instrument of power, making it difficult to conceive and enact alternatives (Knights and Morgan, 1991).
As pointed by Hardy and Maguire (2016), “organizational researchers have not explored the implications of organizations being situated in a dominant discourse” . We aim to explore this gap and more precisely the interactions between a dominant discourse on risk and an emerging alternative discourse.
Our research aims to understand how the culture and the dominant discourse of risk in finance may act as an obstacle for a better integration of the climate risks discourse.
This research is a case study (Yin, 2012) based on a qualitative research (Dumez, 2016). We conducted a series of free interviews with multiple actors of the financial industry and climate experts.
In order to consider the different aspects of a discourse, we supplemented these interviews with a comparative study of a variety of texts, methodologies and tools to compare the dominant discourse of risk with the discourse of climate risk. This heterogeneous material was coded through a combination of findings coming from the data (grounded theory; Dumez, 2016) and the literature presented above.
Free interviews have been conducted with two types of actors : those from the financial industry, embedded into the dominant discourse of risk but considering the climate risk discourse and climate experts, embed into the discourse of climate-risks :
- Credit-risk analyst (*2)
- Financial risk director (*2)
- Bond and equity asset manager (*1)
- Financial analyst (*1)
- French financial regulator (*1, 2 planned)
- Responsible investment manager (*2)
- Extra-financial analyst (*2)
- Climate researcher and specialists (*2, 2 planned)
Texts are mainly composed of legal documents, investors annual reports, and risk assessment methodologies (*12 methodologies published between 2015 and 2018 specific for climate-risk assessment in finance).
First, we compared the dominant discourse of risk in finance with the emerging discourse of climate risks (type of risks considered, body of literature and references, tools, temporal focus, organizations and actors).
We also started to identify obstacles faced by actors who aim to integrate the discourse of climate risks into the dominant discourse of risk. A first set of obstacles are technical (e.g. paucity of non-financial data disclosed by companies). A second set of obstacles seem more related to the power of the dominant discourse of risk. For example, our first interviews suggest that the regulatory framework is consciously or unconsciously seen as a barrier to the integration of climate issues. In the case of credit-risk, the rating models used by investors are standardized and validated by the regulator.
Rather than considering an alternative model to assess climate risks, the actors consider the actual practices as a framework from which it is impossible to get out. In doing so, it may contributes to the intensification of the dominant discourse and lead to a riskification (Hardy and Maguire, 2016) by failing to address correctly climate risks.
Contribution to Scholarship
We aim to contribute to the literature on the construction of risk by illustrating a case where a dominant discourse of risk is well established (strong culture of risk management related to regulation) but face a new discourse coming from a specific set of actors (climate risks). Without giving more value to one or another discourse, our research confirm the power of the dominant discourse against an emerging and alternative discourse.
Moreover, we aim to contribute to the emerging literature on climate change and energy transition impact on the financial sector. While some quantitative research have been done on climate risks in finance (e.g. Andersson, 2016 ; Battiston et al., 2016), our qualitative approach aim to complement these results.
Contribution to Practice
We hope that our work can provide recommendations for the regulator in the design of future regulation related to climate risks as managerial recommendations for financial risk managers, by identifying the different obstacles (technical and cultural) that must be overcome to integrate the climate risks more efficiently.
A fast energy and ecological transition will generate ‘transition risks’(TCFD, 2017) for financial institutions. This is a challenge for risk managers in financial institutions, who are anchored into the dominant discourse of risk in finance but need to consider and to integrate an emerging discourse specific to climate-risks.
Andersson, M., Bolton, P., & Samama, F. (2016). Hedging climate risk. Financial Analysts Journal, 72(3), 13–32.
Battiston, S., Mandel, A., Monasterolo, I., Schütze, F., & Visentin, G. (2016). A climate stress-test of the financial system. Nature Climate Change, 7, 283.
Carney, M. (2015). Breaking the tragedy of the horizon - climate change and financial stability. Speech given at Lloyd’s of London.
Direction Générale du Trésor. (2017). L’évaluation des risques liés au changement climatique dans le secteur bancaire. Retrieved from https://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/Ressources/File/433386
Dumez, H. (2016). Méthodologie de la recherche qualitative: Les questions clés de la démarche compréhensive. (Vuibert).
ESRB Advisory Scientific Committee. (2016). Too late, too sudden: transition to a low-carbon economy and systemic risk. Technical report. Retrieved from https://www.esrb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/asc/Reports_ASC_6_1602.pdf
Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin.
Hardy, C., & Maguire, S. (2016). Organizing Risk: Discourse, Power, and “Riskification.” Academy of Management Review, 41(1), 80–108. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2013.0106
Knights, D., & Morgan, G. (1991). Corporate Strategy, Organizations, and Subjectivity: A Critique. Organization Studies, 12(2), 251–273. https://doi.org/10.1177/017084069101200205
Lupton, D. (2013). Risk (2nd ed.). Routledge Abingdon, Oxon ; New York.
Millo, Y., & MacKenzie, D. (2009). The usefulness of inaccurate models: Towards an understanding of the emergence of financial risk management. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34(5), 638–653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aos.2008.10.002
Novethic. (2018). 173 nuances de reporting, saison 2. Paris.
Phillips, N., Lawrence, T. B., & Hardy, C. (2004). Discourse and institutions. Academy of Management Review, 29(4), 635–652.
Potter, J., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour. Sage.
Power, M., Ashby, S., & Palermo, T. (2013). Risk Culture in Financial Organisations : A research report. CARR-Analysis of Risk and Regulation.
TCFD. (2017). Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure.
Yin, R. K. (2012). Applications of Case Study Research. SAGE Publications. Retrieved from https://books.google.fr/books?id=PL_epxoGHM4C
Which levers for the development of the new hydrogen sector: the industrial hydrogen coupling framework
1University of Nantes, i3/CRG IPF, France; 2University of Paris 13, i3/CRG IPF, France; 3The bridge tank
In the context of energy transition, hydrogen, due to its chemical properties, is nowadays perceived as a powerful lever. Hydrogen technologies are indeed presented as elements that propose solutions to support the development of renewable energies (energy buffer logic), but also via the development of fuel-cell usages (mobility, heating, etc.).
Hydrogen technologies can be seen as niche innovations that follow a long diffusion process (Rogers, 1962 ;Schot, & Geels, 2008), driven by a number of players and competing neither taking over and "coupling" with other niches (battery or natural gas here). We also rely on technico-economic scenario work that discuss the interest of hydrogen as a vector for energy transition (Ball & Weeda, 2015) at different levels. Hydrogen can be presented as a means of decarbonizing mobility through the use of fuel cells (Ajanovic & Haas, 2018; Wilberforce & al, 2017; Mc Dowall & Eames, 2006) and the deployment of the necessary hydrogen charging infrastructure (Iordache et al, 2017). Others insist on the interest of hydrogen in the management of renewable energies via power to gas (Gahleitner, 2013) even if from an economic point of view its interest still appears limited today (Ajanovic & Haas, 2019).
While there are studies that attempt to analyse the interactions between the different links in the hydrogen chain (Colbertaldo & al, 2018; Scamman, & Newborough, 2016), they do not allow us to fully understand the issues related to industrial interactions inherent in the creation of a new economic sector.
This raises the question of interactions between niches and the intermediate level, which would allow us to better contextualize the different stakeholder logics and their involvement in the sense of Akrich et al (1989). How then can these different interactions be conceptualized?
Our communication is based on an exploratory qualitative approach (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007) aimed at better understanding the interactions between the different levels of the hydrogen chain. We adopt an abductive approach (Dubois & Gadde, 2002) decomposed into a round trip between different forms of literature and the data we collect. Through our study we therefore try to understand both the industrial, political and territorial logics of such an upheaval, requiring the acquisition of data in various forms, whether first-hand (interviews, field studies) or second-hand (institutional reports, press, scenarios, etc.).
Our study try to nderstand the issues that will disrupt the current energy regime in 6 territories (China, Japan, Germany, France, California, Scandinavia) chosen because of their national hydrogen policies. What national energy strategy and political trade-offs are made (level of decentralization, subsidies, private public coordination, etc.). We analyse these territories through the collaboration of key stakeholders and a review of the thematic literature focusing on hydrogen scenarios. Based on this territorial framework, we try to develop a detailed analysis of companies' strategies. The main objective here is not exhaustiveness, but the analysis of some key actors that we identify for two reasons. On the one hand, on activities directly related to hydrogen (hydrogen producer, gas transport, fuel cell manufacturers, etc.) and on the other hand, companies whose activity could be more indirectly disrupted by hydrogen (transport industry in particular, both in the supply of fuel and the use of fuel cells). We conducted both several interviews with the managers of these companies and a bibliographical study of the announcements and projects conducted by these organizations on hydrogen issues (press, activity report, etc.).
The first part of the study on national dynamics therefore allows us to better understand the macro issues that will disrupt the regime (national energy strategy, political trade-offs - level of decentralization, subsidies, state-industry coordination, new uses, etc.) and the second part, specifically on firm strategies, will enable us to better understand the niche logics and trajectories of hydrogen technology diffusion. The interaction of the two allows us to identify trajectories of acceleration of industrialization, or the emergence of niche logics in the service of the energy-efficient trajectories of transition. We will focus specifically on the notion of "hydrogen coupling" which appeared central to us during our first analysis.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our analysis, crossing the political and industrial level, allows us to show in detail the current limits of the scaling-up of the hydrogen economy. It is based on the concept of « hydrogen coupling » which is the complex interrelation and interactions of hydrogen production and multiple usages. We would like to show that the effects of networks, or the formation of local ecosystems, are not sufficient to develop the hydrogen economy as a whole. Even if it is often mentioned in the literature, the existence of synergies between massive hydrogen production by electrolysis and the development of uses is not necessary viable. However, the concept of hydrogen coupling also allows us to highlight the effects of dependencies between sectors (storage, mobility, heating, industry, etc.) and in the end the competition generated or even resource capture of the green hydrogen.
Contribution to Practice
Our study provides a new analytical framework for managers of private or public organizations wishing to better understand the changes in this sector. They will be able to more accurately decipher the announcements and scenarios developed by the pro-hydrogen lobbies, but also the coherence of national projects with regard to the principle of hydrogen coupling.
Our study is fully in line with this track because of its subject directly related to the energy transition, but also the approach being at the crossroads of management and industrial economics.
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Ball, M., & Weeda, M. (2015). The hydrogen economy–vision or reality?. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 40(25), 7903-7919
Colbertaldo, P., Guandalini, G., & Campanari, S. (2018). Modelling the integrated power and transport energy system: The role of power-to-gas and hydrogen in long-term scenarios for Italy. Energy, 154, 592-601.
Dubois, A., & Gadde, L. E. (2002). Systematic combining: an abductive approach to case research. Journal of business research, 55(7), 553-560
Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. Academy of management journal, 50(1), 25-32
Gahleitner, G. (2013). Hydrogen from renewable electricity: An international review of power-to-gas pilot plants for stationary applications. international Journal of hydrogen energy, 38(5), 2039-2061.
Geels, F. W. (2002). Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes : A multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research Policy, (31), 1257–1274.
Iordache, M., Schitea, D., & Iordache, I. (2017). Hydrogen refuelling station infrastructure roll-up, an indicative assessment of the commercial viability and profitability in the Member States of Europe Union. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 42(50), 29629-29647.
Kemp, R., Schot, J., & Hoogma, R. (1998). Regime shifts to sustainability through processes of niche formation: The approach of strategic niche management. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 10(2), 175–198. http://doi.org/10.1080/09537329808524310
McDowall, W., & Eames, M. (2006). Forecasts, scenarios, visions, backcasts and roadmaps to the hydrogen economy: A review of the hydrogen futures literature. Energy Policy, 34(11), 1236-1250
Scamman, D., & Newborough, M. (2016). Using surplus nuclear power for hydrogen mobility and power-to-gas in France. international journal of hydrogen energy, 41(24), 10080-10089.
Schot, J., & Geels, F. W. (2008). Strategic niche management and sustainable innovation journeys: theory, findings, research agenda, and policy. Technology analysis & strategic management, 20(5), 537-554
Wilberforce, T., El-Hassan, Z., Khatib, F. N., Al Makky, A., Baroutaji, A., Carton, J. G., & Olabi, A. G. (2017). Developments of electric cars and fuel cell hydrogen electric cars. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 42(40), 25695-25734