Fuel on a fire

The International Energy Agency is an intergovernmental organisation involving more than 40 nations. It collects data from all over the world and interacts with thousands of experts to produce up to date news and analysis about energy matters.

Despite IEA’s specialist resources, it consistently underestimated the world’s movement to sustainable energy. Twenty years ago, IEA predicted global wind power capacity would reach 55 megawatts by 2020. Last year alone, almost 100 GW was added, with total wind capacity now around 800 GW.

IEA similarly underestimated the rise of solar photovoltaics. In a recent report, IEA admitted:

Today, solar photovoltaics (PV) is among the cheapest power generation technologies. In October 2017 – after solar PV had become the fastest growing power generating technology globally – the IEA wrote that “what we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV. We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”

However, in the first two decades of the development of solar PV, the IEA did not foresee any important role in the power sector for this technology…

Solar PV now has installed capacity of about 600 GW and in total, capacity of the two renewable technologies is 1,400 GW, an amount equivalent to 1,273 Site C projects.

If the organization relied upon by international policymakers can be so wrong about the viability of wind and solar power, perhaps we could excuse errors by deep thinkers contributing to energy policy in British Columbia.

Although there is one important difference. Self analysis by IEA led the organization to admit publicly that “assumptions, biases and blind spots” had coloured its estimates, findings and reports. Decision makers in British Columbia have made no such admission even now.

The pattern of growth in non-destructive energy policies was firmly established in 2017 when John Horgan admitted he planned for Site C construction to continue. Project proponents claimed—and continue to claim—that neither wind nor solar can contribute materially to British Columbia’s energy needs. That other nations are successfully integrating these energy sources trashes those arguments

Growth in wind and solar capacity was even stronger by 2021, when Horgan announced the troubled Site C project would continue, despite geotechnical problems and a budget that had almost doubled since Horgan took over the Premier’s chair.

I understand why people gaining direct financial rewards support the Peace River megaproject. But it is harder to explain why rational and, we hope, honest cabinet ministers stay attached to a hazardous hydropower project when less expensive, less damaging options are available. Perhaps the refusal to admit error is explained by Dr. Guy Winch, writing in Psychology Today:

The answer is related to their ego, their very sense-of-self. Some people have such a fragile ego, such brittle self-esteem, such a weak “psychological constitution,” that admitting they made a mistake or that they were wrong is fundamentally too threatening for their egos to tolerate.

In the New Federalist, Madelaine Pitt asserts brittle self-esteem endangers more than economic activities.

In a world where we badly need patience and empathy to tackle difficult, painful, deep-rooted problems, the flimsy rage of the fragile male egos which govern too many of our societies is like fuel on a fire.

Categories: Energy, Site C

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