Rocky Mountain Institute

The Green Movement: Defying The Naysayers

Things sure get weird in a campaign year. Statements and misstatements. Lies and half-truths. I-said-this-but-really-meant-that. It's easy to get swept up in the negativity and for positive messages to get lost in all the noise.

But a funny thing is happening amidst the chatter: The green movement is gaining traction despite the naysayers. It's happening at the corporate level, where Ernst & Young is expanding its sustainability business and even devised "renewable energy attractive indices" (China, to no great surprise, is at the top) to track the world's appetite for clean energy.

And it's happening at the local level. My hometown newspaper, The Fresno Bee, today has this story about a proposal for a huge solar project. It's on land that cannot be farmed, and is indicative of what this region could become. Reporter Kurtis Alexander notes, "While the proposal joins nearly three dozen other solar plants pitched in Fresno County, the venture by Recurrent Energy is by far the biggest and underscores the county's standing as a hotbed for solar development."

The politicians may not acknowledge it, but the green movement is a bullet train on the fast track - despite an expected drop in stimulus funds. Ernst & Young puts it best: "A revolution is underway, and the renewable energy industry is adapting to a changed world. "

It's just not renewables. Energy efficiency and sustainability are helping power the train, and corporations are at the wheel. Pike Research projects spending on energy efficiency to increase 50 percent by 2017 as it becomes more important. has more, and makes particular note of Johnson Controls' clogged pipeline of work. Efficiency remains the biggest bang for the buck since buildings such as those in the photo above consume 40 percent of the world's energy. Often, minimum effort can yield maximum results.

Says Ernst & Young: "Global corporations across numerous industries are moving quickly to pursue cleantech revenue opportunities. The revenue opportunities are transformational because 1) they arise from a shift to a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy, and 2) they are changing corporate business strategies." There is more here and here.

The companies realize that efficiency cuts cost - AT&T slashed $44 million - and contributes to a stronger bottom line; that clean tech is a new revenue source; and that it helps corporations meet internal sustainability goals. Fifty-eight percent of the corporations that responded to an Ernst & Young survey said they plan to increase clean tech spending between 2012 and 2014, and 25 percent said their expenditures will remain the same.

As corporations go, so goes the military, which says the nation's dependence on foreign oil is a security risk. And the military isn't alone in that assessment. Check out this video from the Rocky Mountain Institute, which says threats - and not just those related to security - are leading to a national discussion on energy issues.

Of course, change won't happen overnight. Or will it? Technological advancements are coming at a dizzying rate. Costs are dropping rapidly and it won't be long until solar power, for one, achieves grid parity. I'll keep my beret handy, just in case this revolution is around the corner.

Photo of Seattle skyline by Lars Sundstrom

New energy: Reinventing Fire takes on the fossil fuel question

Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, discusses his latest project, dubbed "Reinventing Fire."

The concept is to divest the economy completely of fossil fuels by 2050 and using private enterprise to do it. The book of the same name was released this fall.

The Rocky Mountain Institute says "energy-related economic, security, and environmental threats are intensifying the national conversation about how to regain energy leadership and competitiveness, restore jobs and prosperity, and build a secure and climate-safe energy system."

Yet it says the country lacks a comprehensive vision of how a market economy can achieve such goals.

The institute says it has that vision and is now building a detailed road map, which it hopes will launch a movement.