Preparations for the forming of a master plan for the utilization of energy resources and their protection began in 1999 with the appointment of a project steering committee. The committee called on many experts. They should do their best to resolve the differences of opinion about the utilization of the energy resources objectively, in other words, to apply their knowledge based on jointly held points of view. This was done in four respects, by taking into account the natural environment and relics, outdoor recreation and natural perquisites, the economic influence on tourism, the community and employment, and in the fourth place the construction costs and gains from the power plants. Consideration of these concerns was not carried out equally thoroughly.
With this completed, the project steering committee intended to compile the four objective conclusions and prioritize the power plants. It was not disclosed whether they intended to do this on their own or to present the issue to those who were better representatives of public opinion. In the report that the steering committee issued about the last point (Conclusions from the Master plan´s second stage), in June 2011, there is no prioritization based on the four groups´ conclusions. On receipt of Conclusions of stage 2 the cabinet appointed a sizable group of people to agree on a master plan, which was presented for comments in the autumn of 2011 and then put before the parliament.
The parliament resolved the issue with a resolution in 2013. The opposing parties now and in the preceding years, the government and the opposition, have presented the plan as a professional work of the steering committee. Nevertheless, when asked, no one can point to the place in the documents where the plan appears. It should be remembered that, in the first years of the steering committee, it was made known that the planning work would be transparent. A second project steering committee took over in 2007. The report titled Conclusions 2 of 2011, giving no classification of the advantages of the power plants in terms of delay, protection and utilization, without a frame, was therefore theirs.
Various concerns are omitted in the master plan which the parliament passed in 2013. There is no recommendation for how and who should assess the transfer of a power resource between categories such as from waiting to protection or utilization. The plan still does not deal with some significant power resources. Then some feel that the master plan omits planning for high tension lines.
At the turn of the century several of the staff at the National Energy Authority simulated fund voting about the deployment of the power resources. When the master plan, as it emerged from the cabinet, was being discussed in 2011, Democracy Center carried out fund voting among the members of parliament and their alternates. This took six months. First it was considered whether they wanted to have the fund voting transparent or secret. They did not want the vote to be public. While this was going on, there government adherents and their opponents met each other in bitterness. Such a condition makes it difficult for a person to say on his own what he really feels about an issue. The participation in the vote was so low that the results were not significant, but an important technical experience had taken place.
The continuation and renewal of the master plan requires work performance that creates lasting trust in the plan. In the long term it is unlikely that the performance of a small steering committee will reflect public opinion convincingly. To take an example, professionals can not assess for the general public the value of leaving Dettifoss Falls untouched against the return from a generating plant on the river; that would put to the test values which are not objective. A difference of opinion as to what professionals cannot wipe away must be resolved as a national concern, after receiving a eavluation from the steering committee and others, with a method that makes it possible to take into account the instigation of the participants who represent the general public, and they are of course the members of parliament.
About ten years ago both the research director at Gallup, whom the steering committee had consulted, and the first chair of the steering committee felt that fund voting was the proper method to use to construct the master plan. Since then more experience has been gained. As things are today, in fund voting the master plan would be renewed progress but surely, and it would steadily be shown who was responsible for what. The agreement of the parliament about it may be renewed, whenever it seems appropriate, by presenting it to the parliament that has the power to amend it before it is put to the vote.
Such a fund vote would be different from the one that Democracy Center carried out in 2011 when it invited MPs and their alternates including two election periodes to participate. That group was therefore widely distributed. If the government takes the initiative in the fund voting and only MPs are included, the political parties represented in parliament have the opportunity to agree jointly on a call to vote as they see reason for. Whether the MPs present a collective call to vote on behalf of the represented parties or others, or individually, they get to make use of the nature of fund voting, namely, that many versions of the issue are considered together and that it is possible to show the differential strengths of the opinions with variable calls to vote.
Morgunbladid July 12th 2013 [translated from the Icelandic]