RMI works to change the way we make electricity


Share
Posted Online: July 10, 2014, 5:54 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
From the editors of E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How does the Rocky Mountain Institute think we can get off of oil and coal by 2050 and save money in the process? -- James Greenville, Redding, CT

A: Colorado-based sustainability think-tank Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) was founded in 1982 by American physicist and environmentalist Amory Lovins to research and promote market-based solutions to our energy crisis without breaking the bank.

The group is focusing efforts on transforming domestic and eventually global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure energy future by mid-century.

"We can eliminate our addiction to oil and coal by 2050 and use one-third less natural gas while switching to efficient use and renewable supply," says Lovins, adding that doing so could actually cost less and support a more robust economy than continuing with business-as-usual.

"Moreover, this transition needs no new inventions and no acts of Congress and no new federal taxes, mandate subsidies or laws…"

To get there, Lovins said we have to start thinking differently now. RMI advocates cutting U.S. electricity consumption by 18 percent over the next 10 years while almost doubling renewable energy's share of generation from 16 to 30 percent.

Few would argue with the cost savings and environmental benefits of such a plan — implementation is the challenge. According to Lovins, we already have the technologies to help foster a rapid evolution of our electricity system, but we still need the political and institutional will to make it happen.

RMI has begun a dialogue with utilities and other entities to align incentives and create more opportunities for electricity users to contribute clean power to the grid themselves through technologies like rooftop solar power.

One key feature of RMI's plan is rate structures that reflect the true benefits and costs of moving to more distributed (small scale/decentralized) energy resources. The group is working with utilities to launch six Electricity Innovation Labs nationally as well as a Solar Development Excellence Center to highlight the feasibility of distributed renewables.

RMI also wants to simplify commercial photovoltaic financing, incorporate renewables into real estate finance and make solar financing affordable to underserved markets.

And RMI wants to make large buildings much more energy efficient, and aims to make a billion square feet of commercial space 35 percent more efficient by 2025 through so-called "deep energy" retrofits, including the adoption of more renewables.

RMI is targeting four of the largest, most influential segments of the buildings market—major companies, the General Services Administration, Department of Defense and "activist" cities (those already on the green cutting edge)—for major energy retrofits, and is working to persuade private investors to consider overall impact and long-term costs, not just short term gains.

Another major part of RMI's plan is to work with large metro regions with upwards of 10 million residents, and with university campuses, to make major efficiency gains.

Other keys to getting us off oil and coal by 2050 include transforming how we design and use vehicles, and getting Fortune 500 corporations to rejigger their energy supply chains to facilitate procurement of more renewable energy.

Beyond the U.S., RMI is working along similar lines with China and other large developing countries to help them avoid some of the energy development missteps undertaken here at home.

CONTACT: Rocky Mountain Institute, rmi.org.


EarthTalk is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine. Send questions to earthtalk@emagazine.com.
















 



Local events heading








  Today is Thursday, Aug. 21, the 233rd day of 2014. There are 132 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Sheriff McLaughlin had the misfortune to dislocate his right shoulder some days ago when his carriage upset. He is now able to walk about but has a very sore shoulder.
1889 -- 125 years ago: A kindergarten was started in the downtown district of Rock Island with the Misses Dodie Hawes and Grace Knowlton as teachers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Pope Pius X died in Rome.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater was named Esquire.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The J.I. Case Co. plant in Bettendorf will add from 150 to 200 employees by Jan. 1 a spokesman for the company said today. The Bettendorf Works today had a payroll of 1,350, but an increased production schedule will require additional people.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illowa Council Boy Scouts of America reached and passed its campaign goal in a drive that began 14 months ago by raising more than $2.2 million for the expansion of Loud Thunder Reservation near Andalusia.






(More History)