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Energy Efficiency is Far Bigger, More Affordable Than Analysts Assume, Lovins Asserts

The energy efficiency resource available to utility and energy system planners is far larger and more affordable than most conventional analyses assume, Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder and chief scientist Amory B. Lovins argues in a new paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

More than four decades after Lovins first began making the case for great reliance on energy efficiency and conservation, the pioneering energy modeler and analyst “aims to illustrate that the resource potential is fundamentally misunderstood and growing larger, rather than shrinking,” Utility Dive reports. RMI Principal Mark Dyson said the organization sees an energy efficiency resource that is two to three times conventional estimates.

“Most traditional analysts and deployers of energy efficiency see and use only a modest fraction of the worthwhile efficiency resource,” Lovins writes. “In energy efficiency as in geology, total reserves exceed proven reserves, and the resource base, increasingly exploitable as exploration and extraction techniques improve, far exceeds both.”

In his own trademark style, he adds that “oil deposits and orebodies are finite assemblages of atoms; mining and dispersion deplete their negentropy. But energy efficiency resources are infinitely expandable assemblages of ideas that deplete nothing but stupidity—a very abundant if not expanding resource.”

Dyson said simple policy changes, like requiring utilities to rely on efficiency when it’s the most affordable option available to them, “would go a long way toward removing some of the structural barriers associated with the current efficiency marketplace.” But some of the best solutions are “tougher nuts,” UtilityDive notes.

“There is a fundamental difference in mindset between incremental, piecemeal efficiency engineering, on the one hand, and integrative design practices,” Dyson explained. Those options would require deeper changes in utility practice and are “not an easy set of solutions. But the upside, we believe, is worth it.”