Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era

A Conversation with Amory Lovins, author of the book of the same name and Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute; hosted by Scott Foster, Senior Analyst (Sustainability), BNP Paribas (Japan)

It’s possible to have 158% societal growth with cost savings and without oil, coal, gas.

AL: 6 million effort to find these results. 61 staff. “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” (Eisenhauer).

Used transportation, buildings, energy, Strategy, design, technology combined to create something

Oil v. electricity

If you make your transport, buildings very efficient, you can triple or quadruple the energy efficiency of buildings. To get this by 2050, we would need to ramp up over the next 20 years.

Not counting positive externalities (gains in healthcare, retail sales, etc)

To achieve that level of efficiency, they’ve used integrated design. It’s missing from all official studies.

SF: How do you want to put it to work?

AL: You can’t do things you don’t know are possible.” Want it to circulate stories about what has already been done. Renewable power supplies are 1/2 of world’s net additions to energy capacity in the last 4 years. US has doubled its energy productivity since ’75 and will triple it again.

Co-led Empire State Building’s retrofit. Now saving six times the energy another energy company proposed. Save 1/3 of peak cooling load by replacing windows.

Biggest use of electricity is for motors, which are used to run pipes and fans.

2/3 of the energy it takes to move an auto is caused by its weight. By making autos out of titanium, electric powertrain, etc. First 3 electrified carbon cars are due out in production next year.

SF: Why isn’t the US leading this technological advance? How do you speed up the process?

AL: We invented these technologies, but haven’t invested in them. In China, wind installations doubled while US Congress cut them in 1/2. We’re doing this to ourself. This is not ideological. Whether you’re interested in national security, public health, environment, etc. We can get this done without falling back on politics.

This can almost always be done at the state level. We don’t need to rely on Congress.

Coal has lost 1/4 of its share. Nuclear died a very long time ago. Worldwide, there are only 6 under construction, but there’s no business case.

What can we do?

Vote with your dollars, not just your ballot. Household choices matter a lot too. Whenever you buy something, buy the most efficient thing and use it sparingly. Be a good example: the communities in which you circulate will look to you as a leader.

Chris Paine: Natural gas?

AL: The US will need at most 1/3 less gas than now in this new carbonless economy. It’s not as cheap as commonly supposed. The volatility of the gas comes from the fact that energies will emerge even further that have constant fixed cost.

Steven Sprague: In homes, we’re constantly heating and cooling. Why don’t we integrate the two using some kind of circulating water?

AL: It’s a big business energy. Thermal integration.

Pentagon’s moving their stuff off the grid. My house is off the grid. That turns out to be not the only way to avoid power outage problems: Most outages occur within the grid.