Reality Check: Debunking Three Clean Energy Myths

Myth 1: Businesses need a clear signal from congress before they can devise a solid energy strategy

The transformation to a fossil-free world is already creating vast new markets. Today, America’s business leaders have a prime opportunity to make smart choices and create the core industries of the new energy era—becoming more competitive, profitable and resilient along the way. (Learn how by viewing our infographic)

“If we really want to get things done, we need to work with institutions that have the resources, skills and management coherence to take big things to scale quickly—and that is private enterprise,” said Rocky Mountain Institute Chief Scientist Amory Lovins. “The solutions are right in front of us. And, business—our most dynamic element in society—is very well equipped to lead the needed energy transition.”

Reinventing Fire offers a blueprint for a business-led transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on efficiency and renewables, saving $5 trillion without requiring new federal taxes, subsidies, mandates, laws or policy innovations that call for Acts of Congress.

But there is room for smart policy, which can help speed the transformation. However, many policy innovations can be implemented with no Acts of Congress—and driven instead at the state or agency level.

Myth 2: Nuclear needs to be a part of any low-carbon electricity system

When it comes to pursuing a secure, environmentally benign and economically beneficial electricity future, all energy sources are not created equal.

In a rapidly shifting industry facing dramatically changing demands and technology options, massive, capitally intensive projects that lock electricity providers into one option for 50 years or more are not a smart move.

So, despite the carbon benefits promised by nuclear (and other risky options such as carbon capture and sequestration), implementing these high-risk options does nothing to address the critical issues about utilities are facing in terms of fuel, security, financial stability, and competition.

Companies making multi-billion-dollar, multi-decade bets have the opportunity to place the right ones now. Reinventing Fire points out that the greatest threat to our current electric system may not be carbon legislation potentially looming on the horizon, but rather disruptive technologies like solar power priced below retail electricity and cost-competitive wind driving more customers to distributed generation.

Myth 3: If getting off fossil fuels were profitable, everyone would be doing it already.

Thirty years ago, the idea that the intersection of information and technology would drive our economy was unthinkable. Yet today, information and technology are the backbone of our economy. In a similar way, the intersection of energy and information is poised to become the economic driver of the 21st century.

Despite common belief, the biggest barrier to realizing the economic, security, and environmental benefits of the new energy era is slow adoption rates—not inadequate technologies.

Today, many smart business leaders are realizing competitive advantage by pursing efficiency and renewables, but they are the exception not the norm. The key is expanding these “pockets of innovation,” bringing solutions to scale and harnessing powerful interconnections.

Reinventing Fire offers a broader, cross-sector context that identifies opportunities for many businesses to make the right decisions for long-term competitive advantage. It outlines the needed reforms and incentives needed to unlock a $5 trillion opportunity through coordination and effort.

Once the incentives to choose sensibly exist, watch out—America’s powerful innovation engine will shift into high gear. It will not only bring new technologies to market but also reshape our ideas of how we use energy. Most promising is what will emerge as IT meets energy, pervading the energy system with distributed intelligence, sensors, and current information.

Learn more about the details of RMI’s blueprint to a new energy era—and how business can drive the transition—at