Empowering Clean Energy Globally

Rocky Mountain Institute
Annual Report 2016
Published in
6 min readNov 20, 2016


If every nation followed the development path of the U.S., Earth’s climate would heat beyond all saving. How to save our planet from all those coal, oil, and gas emissions while powering human development? By helping the people of the developing world to leapfrog straight to the energy revolution. Your support has already made great progress possible and, with the commitment of 192 nations to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Rocky Mountain Institute is moving out into the world with new determination.

RMI is helping islanders escape energy poverty and helping energy systems around the world become cleaner, more efficient, more reliable, and more resilient

In China, your support is helping RMI peak carbon emissions in leading cities and drive rapid scaling of cost-effective energy efficiency and clean energy. We’re supporting practical, scalable pilots with government and business to accelerate transformation of the industrial, buildings, and transportation sectors and to reform electricity markets while reducing coal dependency. And because China is so vast and so varied, and because it will also export many technologies and practices to the developing world, our solutions there will scale globally.

At the same time, we’re ramping up our work with the 1.2 billion people in our world who lack electricity to refrigerate vaccines or help their children study after nightfall, starting in Africa.

And across nearly a dozen island nations, you’ve been helping RMI bring governments and utilities together to move toward clean energy. These special, isolated energy systems will demonstrate that entire economies can be driven by clean energy sources.

Here is some of what your support has helped accomplish in the past year:


In a major milestone along a journey we began with support and guidance from our donors back in 2013, we published Reinventing Fire: China. It provides a road map to help China slash its carbon emissions and energy use by 2050, all at a net economic benefit of more than $3 trillion.

The research informed the bilateral agreements announced between President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama in November 2014 and March 2015, and provided key insights to the energy authors of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which guides the country’s social and economic development.

Reinventing Fire: China came out of a partnership between RMI and three organizations: Energy Research Institute (ERI), a Chinese government think tank that helps set national policy on energy issues; the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Energy Foundation China (part of the San Francisco–based Energy Foundation), an established advisor

to the Chinese government and a philanthropic organization. “RMI has a unique advantage for being not only a world-class think tank in the energy field, but also a ‘do tank’ in the areas of energy efficiency, clean energy, and low-carbon development,” said Mr. Dai Yande, director of China’s Energy Research Institute.

We also started implementing the findings in the past year by collaborating at the highest levels of Chinese government and industry: RMI has begun work with cities and the electricity sector to help transform China’s energy economy. Working with the Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities, we’re helping a group of leading cities peak their carbon emissions early and low, and capture their experience in ways that can be shared with the rest of China’s vast metropolises. In electricity, our focus is on enabling and promoting increased integration of renewables into China’s grid.


To reduce islanders’ dependence on dirty imported fuel, RMI has been working in the Caribbean Sea and Indian Ocean with 10 island nations and one island province. We are helping develop national energy transition plans for Aruba, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, San Andrés and Providencia (Colombia), and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — with some governments committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy.

We are also supporting the development, procurement, and construction of solar, wind, and geothermal projects. Today, RMI has identified more than 28 energy-generation projects in nine different island nations totaling more than 130 MW. These will put islands on an irreversible pathway to have a high level of renewables as part of their energy mix. We’ve also launched an online community of practice with 175 members (and growing) to connect island utility engineers with clean power best practices and experts.

courtesy Zia Khan

“Energy access is a critical need in sub- Saharan Africa, particularly in rural communities. The Rockefeller Foundation has been working to catalyze the rural off-grid energy market in India with minigrid solutions, and we’re excited to support RMI-CWR’s SEED initiative to help African countries holistically plan for a more inclusive and resilient approach to incorporating off-grid solutions and meeting their future energy needs.”

— Zia Khan, Vice President, Initiatives and Strategy, Rockefeller Foundation

courtesy Jean Oelwang

“At Virgin Unite, we believe that RMI-CWR’s SEED Initiative has the potential to deliver major advances in both grid efficiency and the contribution of off-grid renewable energy. We’ve seen this achieved in Rwanda and are committed to supporting this effort to expand across the continent.”

— Jean Oelwang, President of Virgin Unite, Senior Partner of The B Team, RMI Trustee


Courtesy Off-Grid Electric

With the support of Virgin Unite and the Rockefeller Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute’s Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED) program helps governments in developing countries expand access to electricity. Starting in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re helping spread electrification and cut energy-system costs.

“There is a real opportunity to accelerate affordable, reliable, and clean energy access to over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who currently lack access to electricity,” says Benjamin Hay, director of strategy and investments at Virgin Unite.

The SEED program notched its first success in the past year. We helped
the government of Rwanda develop an actionable, integrated resource plan to grow access to electricity from 22 percent to 70 percent in just a few short years using a combination of on-grid and off-grid technologies, while saving $20 million per year in diesel fuel costs. Most important, this new path integrates sustainable and clean energy from the ground up — not to mention the health benefits it provides to the people of Rwanda.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 68 percent of households lack access to electricity. RMI — thanks to your generosity — is helping them turn the lights on more cleanly and efficiently.



Rocky Mountain Institute
Annual Report 2016

Founded in 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute is a nonprofit that transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure future. http://www.rmi.org