Amory Lovins on negawatts, renewables, and neoclassical markets.
The name “Amory Lovins” means different things to different people in the energy industry.
To some executives, the name means “tree hugger.” For about three decades, the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has acted as a champion for green energy development and a critic of Big Oil—and big utilities. Since the energy crisis of 1973, he’s advocated what he calls the “soft” energy path—less reliance on Big Energy with its centralized power plants, landscape-spanning transmission lines, and hard-won fossil fuels, and more reliance on smaller, locally sourced renewables, conservation, and efficiencies driven by competitive market forces. And in the 1970s and ’80s, he argued against nuclear energy, largely on the basis that its development would spur weapons proliferation.
To many outside the industry, however, the name Lovins means “visionary.” In 2009, for example, Time magazine named him one of the world’s most influential people, saying that he “had the solution to the energy problem in 1976,” and that his ideas about conservation and renewable energy “have become accepted wisdom.”