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

4 replies »

  1. Ms. Pitt is quite correct to say that, “To be perfectly clear; of course female leaders are not de facto better than male ones; and of course there have been many, many excellent male leaders over the course of history. But a fragile male ego at the helm is a dangerous one.”

    Mr. Trump and his pal Bolsanaro were and are spectacular examples. The jury may still be out on what’s causing Mr. Horgan’s obvious inconsistency on matters surrounding energy policy. It could be a fragile ego, incompetence, political expediency or a combination of any and all.

    But let’s remember that although Horgan is throwing fuel on the fire that is now licking deservedly at his feet, the inferno was started by Christy Clark and Jessica McDonald. Neither of whom are known particularly for their fragile male egos.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love your last paragraph, Lew! 🙂

    Gordon Campbell would surely like us to remember HIS part in getting the Site C ball rolling, too.

    * * *

    In a slight detour, I came across this Hydro survey (below), to help them plan changes in pricing. It will result in a submission to the BCUC in 2022.

    I’ve completed it and used the blank spaces to take some (respectful) shots at Site C and other issues. I favoured time-of-day pricing, btw.

    We can “rant in our underpants” at Norm’s site, and/or write our MLAs — but this survey allows us to be fleas on the big dog… a sort of back door to the board room, where we can perhaps spread some itchiness.

    Have at it!


    • BC Hydro failed to include “none of the above” in possible responses to some questions. When they try to shape answers, you know it is not a fair minded survey.

      These surveys are not for BC Hydro to gain information; they are to leave the impression that a single consumer can influence utility policies.


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