Energy Innovations: Three Energy Trends That Promise to Change Your Life. Karl R. Rábago, Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass, Colorado 81654

Twenty-three years ago, Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute were heavily criticized as wildly optimistic for predicting that energy efficiency would play a major role in shifting United States energy use patterns, thus reducing overall consumption far below official forecasts. Lovins argued that energy would shift in more economically and environmentally benign directions, while energy intensity (primary energy consumed per real dollar of gross domestic product [GDP]) would markedly decrease without threatening continued economic growth. Today, total U.S. energy use is slightly below the level suggested in that 1976 "soft energy path" graph (see figure below), and in all but five of the intervening years the amount of energy consumed per dollar of GDP has fallen--for a total drop of more than 35 percent since 1973. Renewable energy sources were delayed a decade by federal hostility--exemplified by reductions of more than 90 percent in research and development budgets and suppression of public information--and are only now slowly regaining momentum. Improvements in technology and integrated whole-systems design techniques, and greater attention focused by competitive pressures, are increasing the potential for a "third wave" of energy efficiency, reversing the period of stagnation from 1986 to 1996.

In addition to such oft-discussed trends as fuel price deregulation and electricity restructuring--and in many other countries, privatization of state-owned industries--other, less-recognized forces of change are afoot. This presentation provides an overview of some of the issues and innovations that are likely to alter the global energy sector in the early 21st century. From superefficient energy use to the emergence of hydrogen as a viable energy carrier, from climate concerns to security dilemmas, the relationships between these important concepts and the energy industries are as intricate as they are full of potential to promote growth, profits and opportunity.

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