Negotiating sustainable innovation? Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in Germany


  • Weert Canzer Social Science Research Center
  • Ante Galich University of Luxembourg
  • Lutz Marz Social Science Research Center


Recently, the German Federal Government made the consequential decision to change its energy program. This not only as a result of thedecision to shut down the existing nuclear power plants within the next few years, but also due to vital challenges like climate change andsecurity of energy supply. The shift in the energy-technology paradigm from fossil fuel technologies to regenerative energies might appearas a merely technical process at first glance. Yet, the road to environmental sustainability is paved with economic and social stumblingblocks. The concept of sustainable development is not a blueprint for technical progress but requires deliberations on questions aboutinnovations and governance: How do we want to live and how do we want to get there?This paper traces the negotiations of sustainable innovation on the example of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in Germany. Theinstitutional set up in this field is analyzed and the new organizational actors are identified. These actors attempt to inform and persuadeothers of the benefits of hydrogen and fuel cells in order to establish a common view that is to guide the further development. However,while they succeeded in mobilizing enough actors to launch the largest Public Private Partnership in this sector in the EU, they could notattain the leadership in the public discourse on these technologies. It seems that an attractive guiding vision of a sustainable, post-fossilenergy future and a broad acceptance in daily use would have been major prerequisites for such leadership.