Environmental and Energy Legend Shifts His Role

Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute,
is changing his status to double down on the mission

August 2, 2019

Amory B. Lovins—Cofounder, Chairman Emeritus, and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—has informed the Board of Trustees of his intention to step down as Chief Scientist in November in order to focus on his ongoing thought leadership and engagement in the programmatic work of the Institute. This transition, while relieving him of administrative time commitments, is intended to better serve Amory’s and the Institute’s evolving needs, positioning Amory to best use his time, expertise, and influence in tackling increasingly urgent challenges of the energy transition—a topic Amory has been at the forefront of since publishing his article, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” in Foreign Affairs in 1976.

As RMI approaches its 38th birthday in April 2020 and Amory reaches his 72nd birthday in November 2019, he wants to continue to serve RMI’s mission—and his life’s work—by collaborating with its programs in a more productive manner. Amory will also continue to stay actively involved with RMI as its Cofounder, Chairman Emeritus, and Trustee, tackling the toughest problems and being an ongoing source of thought leadership and inspiration. He will work most closely with the Strategic Insights Team, led by Managing Director James Newcomb—an expanded effort lately stood up to institutionalize the role of Chief Scientist.

“Rocky Mountain Institute’s mission remains my life’s work, so I’m excited to transition in November, when I turn 72, to a new role where I can continue to serve that mission in a more flexible, effective, balanced, and sustainable way. Twelve years after shifting from CEO to Chief Scientist, transitioning from that operational status and shedding its administrative and process responsibilities will let me focus more productively and flexibly on our biggest intellectual challenges in the global energy transition and in integrative design (a way to make energy savings much bigger and cheaper). I look forward to continuing to work with RMI’s talented team, and serving on its Board of Trustees, to increase my contributions to its vital efforts,” said Amory Lovins.

Amory cofounded RMI in April 1982 and for nearly 38 years has served as its VP Research and Treasurer, CEO, Chairman, and Chief Scientist. From its beginnings in the library of the superefficient Lovins residence in Old Snowmass, Colorado, RMI has grown to a rapidly expanding international organization with more than 230 staff, led by a strong senior management team and independent Board of Trustees.

“For so many of us, Amory has been an amazing source of inspiration and wisdom throughout our career. We stand on his shoulders as we double down on the mission of the Institute to accelerate the transition toward a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon energy future.

As we do so, we stand tall in the face of deep concerns about climate change. And we hold on to the deep conviction Amory taught us—that there is no time for pessimism and no justification for optimism, but all the reasons in the world to apply hope in seeking a sustainable energy system,” said RMI’s CEO Jules Kortenhorst on behalf of all staff of the Institute, its thousand-plus alumni/ae, and its wide community of stakeholders around the world.

Over the past half-century, Amory’s work has been recognized by many of the world’s top energy and environmental awards (summarized below), Germany’s highest civilian honor, and a dozen honorary doctorates. Spanning numerous disciplines, he has been the main or sole author of more than 640 papers and of 31 books, including the business books Natural Capitalism and Reinventing Fire. The latter offered a blueprint—now on track in the marketplace—for how the United States could transition off fossil fuels, cut fossil carbon emissions 82%–86%, and save $5 trillion, needing no new inventions nor Acts of Congress, but with smart subnational policies, led by business for profit.

Amory’s recent efforts include launching and supporting RMI’s collaborative synthesis for the Chinese’s government’s ambitious efficiency-and-renewables roadmap that informed its 13th Five Year Plan; helping the Government of India design an ambitious strategy for shared, connected, and electric mobility; exploring novel ways to save energy-intensive materials; and codifying how integrative design of buildings, vehicles, and factories can make their energy savings severalfold bigger and cheaper, often with increasing returns.

“With deep gratitude, the Board of Trustees has accepted Amory’s decision to make this transition. Amory is the soul of RMI and, although he is stepping back from the day-to-day activities as Chief Scientist, we are honored that Amory will continue to be actively engaged both as an RMI Trustee and as a thought leader working on a variety of RMI programs,” said Ted White, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

RMI is looking forward to celebrating Amory’s continuing work in November, and in the mean-time will double down on its mission. With climate change accelerating, everyone at RMI is more committed than ever to working to realize Amory’s vision of “a world thriving, verdant, and secure, for all, forever.”

About Rocky Mountain Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit think-do-and-scale tank founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

More About Amory Lovins

Physicist Amory Lovins (1947– ) is Cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute; energy advisor to major firms and governments in 70+ countries for 45+ years; author of 31 books and more than 640 papers; and an integrative designer of superefficient buildings, factories, and vehicles.

Amory has received the Blue Planet, Volvo, Zayed, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, the MacArthur and Ashoka Fellowships, the Happold, Benjamin Franklin, and Spencer Hutchens Medals, 12 honorary doctorates, and the Heinz, Lindbergh, Right Livelihood (“alternative Nobel”), National Design, and World Technology Awards. In 2016, the President of Germany awarded him the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse).

A Harvard and Oxford dropout, former Oxford don, honorary US architect, and Swedish engineering academician, Amory has taught at ten universities, most recently Stanford’s Engineering School and the Naval Postgraduate School (but only on topics he’s never formally studied, so as to retain beginner’s mind). He served during 2011–2018 on the National Petroleum Council, and earlier on two Defense Science Board task forces on military energy strategy. For decades, he has helped the Armed Forces lead the US Government in deploying efficiency, renewables, and resilient grid architectures.

Time has named Amory one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Foreign Policy, one of the 100 top global thinkers. His latest books include Natural Capitalism (1999, www.natcap.org, with Paul Hawken and L.H. Lovins), and with various RMI coauthors, Small Is Profitable (2002), Winning the Oil Endgame (2004, www.oilendgame.com), The Essential Amory Lovins (2011), and Reinventing Fire (2011, www.reinventingfire.com). From today’s electricity transition to electric and lightweight vehicles, from passive buildings to deep retrofits, from distributed energy systems to today’s belated quest for resilience, many of the trends shaping our world had their origins in his work.

Amory and his wife Judy Hill Lovins, an accomplished fine art landscape photographer, live in their superefficient home and passive solar banana farm in Old Snowmass, Colorado—a building that helped inspire the passive house movement.