The Icelandic government is preparing a master plan for the harnessing of hydroelectric and geothermal energy resources. The Ministry of Industry and Power is in charge of the project; the steering committee has four teams of experts to assist it. Publicity is in the hands of Landvernd (Icelandic Environment Association). The master plan is based on a Norwegian model. The first stage consists of the production of reports on each individual potential power plant. The teams of experts, each consisting of about 10 persons, then give the various alternatives points on the basis of these reports. Each group has a different point of view: 1) conservation of the environment and cultural heritage, 2) outdoor life and natural resource rights accompanying property, 3) the national economy, employment and rural development, and 4) power resources. After they have made their evaluations, the next step consists of prioritization by the steering committee. The aim is to consider 60 possible hydroelectric plants and 40 sites using geothermal power. The first stage, which was completed in the spring of 2003, covered all the possible hydropower sites in the glacial rivers in the uplands and the geothermal sites close to inhabited areas. In the first attempt at evaluation, at the end of 2001, twelve hydroelectric sites were included.

Various factors have to be taken into consideration when evaluating the overall impact of the power plants, and it is difficult to compare them directly. The groups of experts each make their evaluations based on their own premises. In some cases, the consequences can be reduced to a comparable basis by means of calculating profit or loss in monetary terms. In many cases, however, the impact can only be expressed in broad terms, with words such as ‘minor’, ‘major’, ‘very great’, etc.

The steering committee sought the advice of experts in assessment methods on how to establish an order of priority. They were against the method that had been used in Norway; instead, they recommended an analytic hierarchy process (AHP), which the groups of experts adopted. Both methods lack the inbuilt curbing of extreme points of view that is the fundamental characteristic of fund voting. This weakness may come to light when the views of the various groups are to be harmonized into a single conclusion. It is also difficult, using these methods, to combine assessment of large and small power plants, and of plants that are assessed in very different ways. Let us examine how fund voting can be used to handle situations of this type.

The aim of a master plan is to arrive at a consensus on the utilization of resources by weighing opposing interests and points of view. The intention is to sort the alternatives into three categories, one consisting of potential sites that should definitely be harnessed, another of sites that definitely should not (i.e., they should be protected), and a third of sites that have both pros and cons about which there is no fundamental disagreement. If fund voting is to be used, the first step is to present a survey of all the alternatives. Then the alternatives in a particular area are put to a vote. Let us consider a scenario in which there are two power development alternatives, A and B, on a river; the two are mutually exclusive. Alternative A involves one 54-MW power plant; alternative B involves two power plants on the river, with a combined generating capacity of 64 MW. Alternative C is to declare the water course a protected area.

Some people might feel it was too early to adopt a position on either harnessing or protecting the area, preferring to clarify, through fund voting, the question of how certain viewpoints would be treated. One of these, for example, might be the question of balance in regional interests. Postponing the issue gives the leadership handling the vote the chance to take the matter up again at a later stage. Those in favour of postponement must be sure that they will not have to spend votes again and again on the same issue. This could be achieved by having the votes that this result cost each voter restored to him when the issue is put to the vote again; the voters would be free to take a different position in the subsequent vote.

In the case in point, voters could choose to stake their votes on the following four alternatives:

A.     One 54 MW power plant.

B.     Two power plants with a combined capacity of 64 MW.

C.     No power plants to be built on the river.

D.    No decision for the time being on power development or on declaring the river a protected area. Those who back this option will (if it wins) be able to use the votes they stake now in a vote later on, either for or against harnessing the river’s hydroelectric potential.

Large and small power plants; power plants that are assessed in very different ways

Voters faced with the question of how many votes to stake on the 54 MW and 64 MW alternatives will want to be able to form their own ideas of how important these alternatives are in relation to other potential power-development projects that might vary in size from 1-2 MW to more than 100 MW, so as to be able to gauge how many votes they are prepared to stake. Weighing up the pros and cons of power plants of the same size may also prove very difficult. This is the nature of fund voting.

Let us consider another example in which two alternatives that are not mutually exclusive are treated together because they are felt to belong together. Let us call them R and S.

The alternatives to be voted on are as follows:


A geothermal plant is to be expanded by 40 MW.


A new geothermal plant is to be built in the area, with a capacity of 40 MW.


The area where the proposed expansion would take place is to be declared a protected area.


The area where the proposed new plant would be built is to be declared a protected area.


The entire area is to be declared a protected area.


For the time being, no decision is to be taken, either on development or on protection. If this postponement is approved, then those who support it will be able to use the votes they stake on it in a vote at a later stage on the issue of development and protection in the area.

It appears that an examination of the power development and protection alternatives using fund voting would group the possibilities into three categories: one in which development receives clear support, one in which protection receives clear support and a third in which the numbers of votes staked in support of development and protection do not differ very greatly.

This could, in fact, be approached in a different way, before fund voting takes place, by making one proposal for a master plan covering all the power development and protection alternatives. Amendment proposals could then be sought and proposed, as described above in decisions concerning the budget. Still another approach could consist of dealing with a few power development and protection alternatives and propose them as the beginning of the master plan. After this, a proposal concerning a new power development and protection area would be proposed and the process continued, as described above, concerning the budget, for example by proposing an amendment to what was originally proposed.