What lego—yes, lego—can teach us about avoiding energy project boondoggles
(Inside Climate News, 2 Feb 2023) A new book looks at why big projects fail and finds that solar, wind and transmission lines are some of the best kinds of big projects, while nuclear power is among the worst.
In the late 1980s, Denmark’s government announced plans for a massive bridge and tunnel project, the largest infrastructure plan in the history of a country that had little experience building tunnels. Bent Flyvbjerg watched the announcement on the news with his father, who had worked in bridge and tunnel construction.
“Bad idea,” his father said. “If I were digging a hole that big, I would hire someone who had done it before.”
The Great Belt project, as it was called, would go on to face years of delays and the equivalent of billions of dollars in cost overruns. It provided inspiration for Flyvbjerg, now a professor of management at Oxford University, to spend much of his career studying why big projects often go horribly wrong.
This is one of the opening anecdotes in Flyvbjerg’s new book, How Big Things Get Done, written with journalist Dan Gardner. It’s a breezy summary of decades of research into big projects, with a lot to say about the transition to clean energy.