Top RMI news of 2011

"AmoryAmory Lovins is on Twitter! Exciting, yes, but that was not the only news from RMI in 2011. As the headlines show, the energy community has had a busy year. Here’s a roundup of RMI’s top news of 2011:

5. North American cities getting ready for electric vehicles
In 2011, increased CAFÉ standards and the Volt fire investigation kept EVs in the media spotlight. But, lesser recognized were the efforts that city and regional leaders, carmakers, electric utilities and other industry players throughout North America to get ready for the plug-in transition that remains alive and well.

Project Get Ready, RMI’s initiative to prepare cities for EVs added the state of Kentucky, New York, NY, Columbus, OH, and St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN to their growing network of over 25 partner cities and 40 technical advisers this past year. In addition, existing partner cities—like Portland and Raleigh have continued to make strides in EV infrastructure readiness and consumer education.

4. Forget Solyndra: Transforming the solar market
While solar photovoltaic module costs have decreased significantly in the past decade, high installation costs caused by a complex tangle of utility interconnection requirements, financing expectations and permitting codes is a big reason why installed solar PV remains an expensive energy option.

The U.S. Department of Energy is tackling the challenge funding projects that included extreme “Balance of System” hardware cost reductions. This builds on RMI’s collaboration with the DOE that began at RMI’s Balance of System Charrette in June 2010 and continued with the agency’s February 2011 workshop on solar process costs, which RMI facilitated.

In August, 2011, RMI received a DOE grant of nearly $684,000 to accelerate large-scale adoption of solar PV, and last month, a team including RMI, received a $491,000 grant to pilot a program in Colorado that could reduce solar permitting and interconnection costs by 25 percent.

3. Federal buildings receive efficiency facelifts
A retrofit of the Byron Rogers Federal Building in Denver, which kicked off in January 2011, is expected to make the building one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in the nation—resulting in a projected 61 percent reduction from existing energy use from efficiency alone. Owned by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the largest building owner in the country, this building can provide a replicable model for how to not only meet but exceed the government goals and mandates.

To ensure that successes from this project could be replicated in future retrofits, RMI recently advised the GSA on a Net Zero Renovation Challenge. The challenge will help energy service companies develop skill sets for energy retrofits that lead to deeper cost savings. Demonstrating these skills will allow them to change their business models and create a competitive advantage.

2. The Empire State Building retrofit continues to make headlines
Since the retrofit of the Empire State Building was announced in April 2009 by partners Clinton Global Initiative, Jones Lang LaSalle, Johnson Controls and Rocky Mountain Institute, the project has achieved $4.4 million in annual savings and a three-year payback. This landmark retrofit not only serves as an example of the economics of efficiency, it shows how retrofit projects can create jobs (Newsweek breaks down the 252 jobs created by the project) and attract and retain building tenants.

In 2011, the US Green Building Council awarded the Empire State Building LEED Gold. This month, retrofits surpassed new builds in LEED-certified buildings for the first time, and the Empire State Building was cited as an influential project driving this shift.

1. RMI launches Reinventing Fire in the nation’s capital
On October 27, 2011 RMI unveiled its anticipated book and strategic imperative, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Built on RMI’s 30 years of research and work in the field, Reinventing Fire offers a blueprint for a business-led transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on renewables, saving $5 trillion without requiring new federal taxes, subsidies, mandates, laws or policy innovations that call for Acts of Congress.

Read headlines from the Reinventing Fire launch here.

While we are ending 2011 on a high note, a great deal of work remains in 2012 and beyond to transition to a clean and secure energy future powered by efficiency and renewables. What do you think needs to be accomplished next year to move us closer to a fossil fuel free future?