“Traditional” vs “New”: Olympics and Utilities

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | March 15, 2014 | Energy Policy
“Thin-film” photo-voltaic panels line the roof of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, where the ice hockey games were played, as well as other facilities.

As both the Sochi Winter Olympic & Special Olympic games have now drawn to a close, more than a few commentators sniffed about a “disappointing” Olympic games for the USA. Speedskating coach Bob Fenn reportedly said, “It’s like the fall of the Roman Empire.” One newspaper commented, “It’s just not the year the U.S. hoped it could be. Not even close.”

Such a disappointment! The USA finished second behind home-field Russia in the medals race.

Of course, the USA shone in those pesky new “X Games” sports like snowcross. As the Knoxville News-Sentinel noted, “The new sports have kept the U.S. near the top of the overall medal chart in an Olympics where speedskaters were nearly shut out and figure skaters won only two medals.”

Around the world, complaints that suggested an unfair advantage rang out. “The U.S. …  should be penning a thank-you note … for the 12 new events … where the U.S. bloated its count,” penned a USA Today columnist.

The complaints suggest a “what’s new doesn’t belong” attitude. The hand-wringing about the demise of the US Winter Olympics juggernaut reminded me about the same, tiresome complaints of the fossil fuel industry.  As new energy resources have “stolen” market share from big, traditional energy sources we hear moans and cries: “Unfair! Not real sports/energy! Not real athletes/utilities!”

Well, the X Games are in the Winter Olympics to stay, and so are energy efficiency, solar power, and wind power! Not to mention the new “sports” of energy storage, tidal/ocean energy and even geothermal technologies!

And I can’t help wondering if new sports will replace curling before new energy resources replace coal?

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