Market News

 June 15, 2010
Reinventing Fire - New Initiative by RMI

 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.

America lacks a comprehensive vision of how a market economy can achieve these transformational goals, says the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), one of America's leading climate-related think tanks.

RMI has that vision, and is now building its detailed roadmap, which it calls Reinventing Fire(tm). This strategy will bring together RMI's 28 years of innovation and engage the world in its most ambitious and important work yet-using whole-system thinking and integrative design to move the U.S. off fossil fuels by 2050, led by business for profit.

"We are engaging powerful partners across four key sectors-buildings, transportation, industrial design and electricity-to understand and vault the barriers to shifting from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Although that transition will take decades to complete, and not all its details can be fully foreseen, big gains can start now," says RMI.

Reinventing Fire will focus on opportunities in the next five years that can profitably jump-start the journey toward a fossil-fuel-free economy.

Building on its 2004 synthesis "Winning the Oil Endgame," RMI's goal with Reinventing Fire is to change minds and clarify choices by showing what exists, what works, what makes sense and what makes money. "We aim to move the conversation from "it's impossible" and "how much will it cost?" to "here's how" and "how can we invest?"

Reinventing Fire will not only create a vision but also provide a peer-reviewed, industry-validated roadmap of practical steps toward an efficient, resilient, cost-effective, all-renewable energy system. 

Three attributes uniquely equip RMI to lead this work:

  • Our whole-system principles are suited to the broad nature and interactive complexity of the problem.
  • Mastering the technical, economic and institutional tangle of energy issues, opportunities and players.
  • RMI's convening power and transideological approach will draw constructive feedback from allies and skeptics, fostering diverse partnerships for dissemination and implementation.
A Cross-Sector Approach

Paramount in the Reinventing Fire vision is the belief that transitioning to efficiency and renewables will require an integrative approach within and between systems, leavened with a healthy dose of fresh thinking. 
Reinventing Fire requires RMI's strengths-as practitioners, not theorists; doing solutions, not problems; and doing transformation, not incrementalism.

In the web of interconnections spanning how energy is produced, transported, distributed and used, all the points along the way are fair game for intervention. But decades of research into how energy moves from fossil-fuel sources to uses have revealed key leverage points in four sectors: transportation, buildings, industry and electricity.


Moving people, freight and the platforms that carry them uses most of the world's oil. Smart design can make platforms lighter and more efficient while enhancing performance, safety and comfort. RMI's implementation strategy aims to spur mass markets that will induce manufacturers to retool and redesign all types of vehicles.


Despite new codes, design tools, technologies and early success stories, the U.S. commercial building stock is no more energy efficient today than it was 25 years ago. In 2030, approximately 60 percent of the current commercial building stock will still be in use. Clearly, buildings need to be a major part of any effort to get the U.S. off fossil fuels. RMI's RetroFit initiative uses integrative design, astute timing and powerful partners to make these improvements bigger and cheaper.


Few power and industrial plants, commercial and residential buildings, vehicles and transportation systems are as energy efficient as they should be. Factor Ten Engineering (10Xe) aims to revolutionize how engineering is taught and practiced, so very large energy savings cost less. RMI's projects have demonstrated impressive potential to apply such integrative design across the range of industrial processes, as well as to buildings and vehicles. We plan to multiply those initial successes into far wider change, especially in industry.


Electricity generation is the largest user of fossil fuels, chiefly coal. RMI's energy practice is leading a multi-year effort to develop a credible and advantageous transition from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Our Next-Generation Utility initiative will show that replacing coal and nuclear power with a portfolio of dynamic demand- and supply-side resources-distributed and renewable-is both cost-competitive and highly reliable.

Source: www.rmi.org