Jason Barton

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Amory Lovins’ Three Energy Trends to Watch

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Energy efficiency tops Lovins’ list of energy trends to watch, particularly automobile efficiency, which is excellent news. Efficiency is sometimes overlooked because it’s not as sexy as new energy technologies, but in my mind it’s the most important aspect of our energy future. Saving energy means saving money, which should make it an easy sell, as well as resources. Even if we increase renewable energy, those technologies still require resources in one form or another, so decreasing energy use is a more effective way to ensure the availability of essential resources for future generations.

His claim that the steepest increases in efficiency will be in automobiles is especially encouraging due to the resulting decrease in imported petroleum. There is often an odd connection made between renewables such as wind and solar, or even domestic natural gas, and decreased petroleum imports, but this is a fallacy. We use petroleum for less than 1% of our electricity generation (Yergin, 2012). The only ways to decrease petroleum imports are to decrease vehicle miles driven, increase vehicle efficiency, or power automobiles with something other than petroleum, a trend that is increasing, but so far still negligible.

His third point, on increasing distributed energy, is also important, and one I’ve written about before on this site. Moving away from large, centralized power plants to smaller units in neighborhoods, at large office parks, and other locations, provides two big benefits, among others. First, it can greatly increase efficiency as electricity travels far shorter distances, spending less time in transmission lines, meaning more of it arrives where it’s used, as opposed to dissipating in those lines. Smaller plants can also adapt much more quickly to changing energy technologies. Centralized plants that are 50 years old are difficult to modify, and too expensive to scrap to accommodate more renewables or different electricity feedstocks.

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Though Lovins’ hardline conservationist stance is sometimes controversial, from his “Soft Energy Paths” in 1976, through his work with Rocky Mountain Institute, right up to today and this recent article, he’s been an important voice in the energy conversation.

 

Amory’s Angle: Three Major Energy Trends to Watch

By Amory B. Lovins

Popular media and political chatter are abuzz with a cacophony of energy news and opinion. Amid the chaos, some orderly strands can be discerned. Here are three themes that merit attention:

EFFICIENCY IS ACCELERATING

Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.

Read the entire article here.