Energy Discourses with Q Methodology

Q Methodology sort board

To explore diverse views on energy preferences, the project utilizes Q-Methodology. Q-Methodology involves asking participants to sort statements on a bell shaped spectrum from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Following this exercise, participants are given the opportunity to explain the meanings they have associated with different influential statements. A form of factor analysis is then utilized to analyze sorted statements from research participants.

With a comparative study in three regions of Canada we use Q method to identify five discourses on energy issues: (1) climate change is a primary concern, (2) maintain the energy economy, (3) build on resilience of nature and local energy systems, (4) markets and corporations will lead, and (5) renewables are the path forward. Unlike other studies on energy discourses, we do not find regional or context specific narratives within this study. We do find, however, several under-examined and under-represented perspectives on energy and society in Canada. One discourse attempts to balance growth in the energy economy with environmental concern and another discourse promotes the resilience of natural and local energy systems. We also find a strong consensus discourse on issues of climate change that permeates energy policy considerations within the study. For the policy community and for those working directly with communities on energy issues, this research may help to elaborate energy policy conversations beyond the common environment versus economy tropes. The study also reveals nuanced perspectives and opportunities to forge common ground and mutual understanding to move more constructively through complex debates.

Link to this study in the journal Environmental Sociology

Other studies using Q methodology:

Dairon, M. S. Clare and J.R. Parkins. 2017. Participant engagement and data reliability with internet-based Q methodology: A cautionary tale. Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology 39(3): 1-14.

Parkins, J.R. and K. Sherren. 2021. Identifying energy discourses across scales in Canada with Q methodology and survey research (Chapter 6, p.153-176). In Jacquet, J., Haggerty, J., Theodori, G. (eds). Energy Impacts: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of North American Energy Development, University Press of Colorado.

Dairon, M., J.R. Parkins and K. Sherren. 2018. Seeking common ground in contested energy technology landscapes: Insights from a Q Methodology study. In J. Whitton, M. Cotton and K. Brasier (eds). Governing Shale Gas: Development, Citizen Participation and Decision Making in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (Chapter 17). Routledge.