Thinking Big: Politics, Progress, and Security in the Management of Asian and European Energy Megaprojects


Year of publication: 2014
Author(s): Thijs Van de Graaf, Benjamin K. Sovacool
Appeared in: Energy Policy


This article examines four energy megaprojects, two in Europe and two in Asia. For each region, a large natural gas pipeline project and an international project involving solar power from the desert is studied. The natural gas projects are: the Nabucco project (in Europe) and the trans-ASEAN gas pipeline network (in Asia). The solar power from the desert projects are: Desertec (in Europe) and Gobitec (in Asia). The article probes explanations of megaproject failure along social, technical, economic, political, and psychological dimensions. We find that these projects, though they are very different in nature and pertain to different regions, all suffer from a similar set of problems: too many stakeholders and stakeholder fragmentation; cost overruns and the risk of accidents and attacks; massive externalization of costs to third party stakeholders; concentration of wealth and corruption; and inflated expectations and biased projections. We conclude by reflecting on lessons for not only the involved institutions and investors, but energy analysts and the public at large.