Episode 3
Amory Lovins
Asking Heretical Questions

Physicist Amory Lovins is co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Rocky Mountain Institute; energy advisor to major firms and governments in 70+ countries; author of 31 books and over 700 papers; and designer of superefficient buildings, factories, and vehicles. Time magazine has named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Amory discusses the art of thinking differently, future trends in energy, how to unify people with diverse interests to solve shared problems and much more.

Renewable power generation is cheaper:

Last year (2019), 78% of the world’s net additions to generated capacity were already renewable not counting big hydro. They’re set to take the rest of the market too because modern renewables are already the cheapest power source in 85% of the world and are rapidly heading toward 100%.

A fast growing competitor with 2-3% market share can take over a market:

Investors are seeking growth not just size. They want to sell their shares just before demand peaks because after it peaks they’re stuck with competitively depressed prices and stranded assets. There are many examples showing that when a fast-growing competitor in a slow growing market reaches just 2-3% market share, it suddenly crashes the value of the incumbents. Why? Because it takes all the growth. It tips the incumbents into decline just as the pandemic has probably tipped fossil fuels into irreversible decline.

We have seen several ‘peaks’ come and go:

Peak coal use was in 2013, Peak car sales were in 2017, Peak fossil fuelled electric generation was in 2018, and in all likelihood, peak oil use, fossil fuel use and energy CO2 releases were last year in 2019.

Ask heretical questions to help clarify what is possible:

The econometric model assumes the future will be like the past only more so. Instead of using this model, I used the backs of large envelopes and a slide rule. I was asking heretical questions like, ‘what’s the right quality of energy for the job?’. We were paying in the forecasts and in reality for a lot of energy quality that was wasted, it wasn’t needed to do the job. This is still true even though we’ve over doubled energy efficiency since then. Professor Allwood’s group at Cambridge now says that, in practice, if we fully used all the practical technologies and passive methods we know of, about 85% of the world’s energy could be saved.

Focus on outcomes rather than motives:

Different people have different motives and interests when it comes to energy. Some care a lot about national security. Some care about profits, jobs and competitive advantage. Some care about social equity and justice. Some care about the environment and climate. Some care about public health. Some care about individual choice and local autonomy. All of these are valid motives and I think it’s important not to have to agree about which motives are most important or who is right about holding a particular motive. I don’t care what your motives are, if we want to do the same thing let’s collaborate to get it done. It’s a much more likely to succeed method.