Rocky Mountain Institute
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is an organization in the United States dedicated to research, publication, consulting, and lecturing in the general field of sustainability, with a special focus on profitable innovations for energy and resource efficiency. RMI was established in 1982 and has grown into a broad-based institution with more than 45 full-time staff and an annual budget of nearly $7 million. RMI's work is independent and non-adversarial, with a strong emphasis on market-based solutions. The work of RMI has benefited more than 80 Fortune 500 companies in a diverse range of sectors. RMI is headquartered in Snowmass, Colorado, and also maintains offices in Boulder, Colorado.
In 1978, experimental physicist Amory Lovins had published six books, consulted widely, and was active in energy affairs in some fifteen countries as synthesist and lobbyist. Lovins is a main theorist of the soft energy path.
Later in 1979, Lovins married L. Hunter Sheldon, a lawyer, forester, and social scientist. Hunter received her undergraduate degree in sociology and political studies from Pitzer College, and her J.D. from Loyola Marymount's School of Law. In 1982, along with Hunter, Amory Lovins founded the Rocky Mountain Institute, based in Colorado. Together with a group of colleagues, the Lovinses fostered efficient resource use and policy development that they believed would promote global security. RMI ultimately grew into an organization with a staff of around fifty. By the mid 1980s, the Lovinses were being featured on major network TV programs, such as 60 Minutes.
At RMI's headquarters in Snowmass, Colorado, the south-facing building complex is so energy-efficient that, even with local -40°F winter temperatures, the building interiors can maintain a comfortable temperature solely from the sunlight admitted plus the body heat of the people who work there. The environment can actually nurture semi-tropical and tropical indoor plants.
The Lovinses described the "hard energy path" as involving inefficient liquid-fuel automotive transport, as well as giant centralized electricity-generating facilities, often burning fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum, or harnessing a fission reaction, greatly complicated by electricity wastage and loss. The "soft energy path" which they wholly preferred involves efficient use of energy, diversity of energy production methods (and matched in scale and quality to end uses), and special reliance on "soft technologies" (alternative technology) such as solar, wind, biofuels, and geothermal. According to the Institute, large-scale electricity production facilities had an important place, but it was a place that they were already filling in the middle 1970s; in general, more would not be needed. In a 1989 speech, Amory Lovins introduced the related concept of Negawatt power, in which the creation of a market for trading increased efficiency could supply additional electrical energy to consumers without increasing generation capacity--such as building more power plants.
In recent years, RMI has convened a team of designers and engineers to develop a super-efficient prototype automobile, which they've dubbed the Hypercar.
RMI co-founder Amory Lovins has received nine honorary doctorates, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Heinz, Lindbergh, Right Livelihood ("Alternative Nobel"), World Technology, and Time Hero for the Planet awards, the Benjamin Franklin and Happold Medals, the Nissan, Shingo, Mitchell, and Onassis Prizes, and honorary membership of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
The Institute's mission statement
- Brittle Power
- Natural capitalism
- Negawatt power
- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
- Soft energy path
- Soft energy technology
- Winning the Oil Endgame