A 2013 retrospective on ‘Saving Gigabucks with Negawatts’ (1985)
Physicist Amory Lovins is cofounder, chairman, and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute. [Editor’s note: The author’s article, “Saving Gigabucks with Negawatts,” appeared in Fortnightly’s March 21, 1985 issue. That article was drawn from the author’s presentation at a meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners the previous November.]
Slowly, ponderously, but with gathering speed, the competitive forces my NARUC talk described 29 years ago are inexorably transforming the electricity business.
Negawatts aren’t yet allowed to compete head-to-head with supply in a third of the United States, utilities in 35 states are still rewarded for selling more electricity and penalized for cutting customers’ bills, and electric generation remains far more subsidized than efficient use. Yet as predicted, electricity’s share of end-use energy is rising while total electricity use is falling. Rocky Mountain Institute’s 2011 “grand synthesis,” Reinventing Fire,1 found about 1 percent per year average demand shrinkage plausible to 2050, despite extra use for electric autos and average GDP growth of 2.4 percent per year.