News & Opinions
The latest news and insights from Hanley Wood’s outspoken experts and key thought-leaders throughout the residential and commercial design and construction industry.
Three Major Energy Trends to Watch
Amory B. Lovins / Rocky Mountain Institute / September 5, 2013
Popular media and political chatter are abuzz with a cacophony of energy news and opinion. Amid the chaos, some orderly strands can be discerned. Here are three themes that merit attention:
EFFICIENCY IS ACCELERATING
Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.
Motivated in part by more stringent fuel economy standards coming down the pipeline, lightweighting—the core of the new “platform fitness” approach, which focuses on optimizing a vehicle’s structure first before addressing propulsion technology and fuel source—has been the industry’s hottest strategic trend for several years (see “Battling America’s Automotive Obesity Epidemic,” page 28). In short, the auto industry is finally beginning the fundamental change we’ve been advocating since 1991. And as automakers and government adopt RMI’s fitness-first, ultralighting-focused strategy, they’re finding that making costly batteries or fuel cells fewer rather than cheaper can make electric cars more affordable with less time, cost, and risk. This can save severalfold more oil than the government forecasts, use 80 percent less autobody manufacturing capital, de-risk automaking, and save (in the U.S. alone) half an OPEC’s worth of oil.
Meanwhile, U.S. autos’ four percent average asset utilization—that is, they sit idle 96 percent of the time—is driving remarkable new carsharing and ridesharing programs, smartphone apps, and emergent automaker business models based on leasing mobility services rather than selling autos. These developments, adopting Natural Capitalism’s powerful “solutions economy” business model, could profoundly reduce the need for autos to yield the same or better mobility and access at lower cost.