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Green Hydrogen Futures: Tensions of Energy and Justice Within Sociotechnical Imaginaries


As a reformist approach to low-carbon transitions, green hydrogen is often promoted as an easy replacement for fossil fuels. This substitution narrative makes this technology compelling as it offers to reduce emissions while continuing the contemporary energy system. Using ‘sociotechnical imaginaries’ this paper explores the underlying political processes on what appears to be a mostly technical vision of green hydrogen. Analysis through expert interviews in Aotearoa New Zealand revealed two contrasting energy visions, one emphasizing the technical role of green hydrogen in New Zealand's transition—the green hydrogen imaginary and the other which advocated for a future motivated by social change—the alternative energy imaginary. Comparing the tensions through a lens of hydrogen justice exposed the assumptions and exclusions present in the emerging green hydrogen imaginary. This paper argues that the technocratic, business as usual approach of green hydrogen depoliticizes the social nature of energy and thus risks perpetuating inequalities and harms present in the current energy system. However, these critiques also suggest that there is hope for green hydrogen to be reimagined in more ethical and just ways.

Funding source: This research was funded by the Institute for Geological and Nuclear Sciences (Project: C05X2004) through the MBIE Endeavor Fund.
Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: New Zealand

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