At the 1989 Green Energy Conference in Montreal, Amory Lovins, a noted environmentalist and Rocky Mountain Institute founder, shared his idea of a Negawatt Revolution.
Lovins came up with the theoretical unit the “Negawatt” as a unit of power measuring energy saved. The idea, which seems obvious now, is simply about cutting electricity consumption without actually reducing energy usage. Improving energy efficiency standards and upgrading outdated power sources can help with cutting down electricity consumption. This was a novel concept when Lovins first introduced it 23 years ago in Montreal. People were slow and hesitant to take up the idea, and twenty years later there is a large-scale reappearance of the Negawatt principle.
In recent years, government incentives and investments have brought a new attention and potential to Lovins’ Negawatt Revolution.
The American Recovery Act, enacted in 2009, invested $831 billion into the economy, and more than 11 percent went to “green” energy spending. The Recovery Act expended $97 billion on renewables, smart-grid infrastructure, fuel-efficient vehicles, and other projects with similar goals. The largest portion of spending went to energy efficiency and retrofitting projects, leaving this investment to be the largest in history.
Could continued investments and priorities help lead the United States into a full-fledged Negawatt Revolution? Much work is done to set incentive structures and encourage the necessary investments, but the potential benefits for the environment and the economy seem promising.