As we look back on the past year, we balance optimism — about progress in Paris and the pace of the energy transition — with concern that the scientific data increasingly point to the extreme urgency of the climate change challenge.
It has been a successful year for Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), but we have our work cut out for us. As we look forward to the upcoming year, we recognize the need to scale our impact.
Fortunately, the energy transition is gathering speed. Renewables are increasingly the cheapest form of power generation: In Chile, solar power dropped below $0.03 per kilowatt-hour, and in the United States, new wind power now costs about $0.02 per kilowatt-hour. Improvements in energy efficiency are also accelerating; global energy intensity fell by 1.8 percent last year, triple the rate it fell between 2003 and 2013. And the outlines of a mobility revolution driven by autonomous electric vehicles are also becoming clearer. Renewables, energy efficiency, and smart mobility — integrated and powerfully enabled by information technology — are all areas in which RMI is actively engaged.
The global agreement on climate change, signed in Paris at the end of 2015 and ratified in record time shortly before I wrote these words, has set a new direction. Policymakers, working together with business leaders and civil society, have shown signs of the political will needed to address climate change. Now the world must quickly implement the agreement.
At the same time, the past 16 months have each been the hottest on record. Scientists tell us that climate change is a clear and present danger. The transition to a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future is therefore more urgent than ever.
That is why all our programs, whether under the banner of Rocky Mountain Institute or as part of our Carbon War Room business unit, seek ways to scale our impact around the globe. In the U.S., our electricity team is ramping up purchasing of renewables by corporations, helping transition the electricity regulatory framework in New York and other states, and defining how to balance an electricity grid increasingly fed by renewable power. Our buildings team helped shape a master plan for a net-zero community in Pittsburgh and is working to create a digital platform for improved energy efficiency performance of existing buildings. Our mobility team is supporting the cities of Austin and Denver as they demonstrate the low-carbon IT- enabled mobility future.
Our work is growing overseas. After laying out the strategy for a low-carbon future in Reinventing Fire: China, we are now supporting the Chinese government as it implements the strategy in cities across the country, and the China Electric Power Research Institute, State Grid’s largest research institute, on its green electricity dispatch strategy. We are helping island economies and sub-Saharan African countries lay new plans to shift to low-carbon electricity generation.
We were able to scale up our impact in the past year because of your commitment. RMI is effecting change in more countries and industrial sectors than ever before, and our new net-positive energy RMI Innovation Center is exceeding expectations during its yearlong commissioning, thanks to you.
The need for our work continues unabated. The impact we deliver is based on two critical pillars — the passion and commitment of our amazing team of professionals collaborating with partners across the energy landscape, and your generous support, which is crucial to our continued success and for which we are deeply grateful. Thank you so much for your help.
Jules Kortenhorst, CEO
MESSAGES FROM THE CHIEF SCIENTIST AND BOARD CHAIR
“Renewables are starting to bring modern energy to more than a billion people now off the grid, and stable, affordable energy prices to billions more. The same solar cells that power a New York apartment can power a Native American hogan, a Chilean mine, or a Rwandan school. And when daughters and sons get the light they need and can learn to read, democracy, entrepreneurship, and durable development will soon follow. The energy revolution described in these pages is already upon us. Its emerging low-carbon future can be the greatest driver ever created for a clean, prosperous, secure economy and a richer, fairer, cooler, safer world for all.”
— Amory B. Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute Cofounder and Chief Scientist
“The planet is currently in crisis mode. We have enormous challenges to solve as we move forward — poverty, inequity, and of course climate change. I’m thrilled to say that Rocky Mountain Institute’s Board of Trustees has approved a program portfolio that not only leads the U.S. to a low-carbon future, but also helps the developing world leapfrog into clean development, to help create a more secure, equitable, and healthy future. The future should not be a continuation of the past. And with your help, our portfolio promises to transform the energy sector and have greater impact around the world than ever before.”
— José María Figueres, Chair of the Board of Trustees