Energy efficiency is fundamentally undervalued, RMI finds

A new paper by the cofounder and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) seeks to challenge conventional wisdom when it comes to energy efficiency, positing that the size and cost of the potential resource base is much larger and cheaper than previously believed.

The misunderstanding is fundamental, according to physicist Amory Lovins. By examining individual energy-consuming technologies, rather than the whole buildings, vehicles and factories which they power, the industry is significantly underestimating the resource.

Much of today's climate change thinking argues that the world has to use energy at least 3% more productively each year in order keep the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, explains RMI. Lovins' research argues the world can sustain those rapid efficiency savings — slightly above the 2015 peak of 2.8% per year — far easier than was previously thought.