A committed minority can threaten green energy projects



Scientists at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have published a report that finds when just 10 percent of a population holds an unshakable belief, this belief will rapidly be adopted by the majority of the society.

The scientists used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion.

The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

'When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,' said Boleslaw Szymanski, a Professor at Rensselaer. 'Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like a flame.'

These findings confirm a significant threat that BC faces when it comes to public acceptance of green energy projects - the vulnerability of public perception to swing against a project if it is opposed by a passionate few.

There are two recent examples of this in action in BC, smart metering and distributed generation. BC Hydro's Smart Metering Program faces concerns over radio frequency, which comes despite what would appear to be misinformation from opponents, especially in light of information published by BC Hydro.

Distributed generation projects, specifically biomass, also appears to face opposition from groups. (See also GLOBE-Net article 'Waste-to-Energy - A Burning Issue for Tomorrow's Cities'.)

Of course, committed opinion holders can also benefit green energy projects, a concept which dates to Everett Roger's Diffusion of Innovation, whereby regions with a critical mass of staunch advocates could be best at advancing new technology projects.

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