Amory Lovins on Natural Capitalism

I recommend this series of lectures by the Rocky Mountain Institute‘s Amory Lovins. He delivered the lectures at Stanford, and they’re now hosted at the Social Innovation Conversations site.

I first came across these lectures on Jon Udell’s blog. Udell does a good job of describing them.

What you will hear, in these talks, is the distillation of a lifetime of experience in the creative optimization of the use of energy. The principles are all laid out in Natural Capitalism: integrative design, whole-system engineering, radical resource productivity, tunneling through the cost barrier. But it’s something else again to hear Lovins pile up the case studies, one after another, in a plain-spoken but cumulatively overwhelming stream of revelatory common sense.

Natural capitalism is wonderfully straightforward notion: essentially it states that capitalism is a reasonable framework for solving the world’s problems, so long as you assign reasonable value to the natural capital (clean air, forested land, mineral wealth) you consume and create. Everything belongs on the balance sheet. We suffer now because we thought of carbon dioxide emissions as a zero cost economic output that could go under the rug. Integrative design is another trend that I see rapidly becoming more prominent. And I was struck by Lovins’ use of this quote from Einstein: “I wouldn’t give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

With these words still echoing in my ears, I was happy to read in this morning’s Boston Globe about a company called H2O Applied Technologies. According to the article, “They find ways to cut energy costs. They make energy-saving improvements. They buy and install new equipment. And they pay for everything.” They make their money by taking a cut of the resulting savings. It’s a beautiful model. No hand-wringing. No theatrics. No appeals to guilt or charity. Just profit-seeking capitalists trying to make money. If we do manage to save the world, this is how we’ll do it.

Here’s the link: Clients get energy savings, H2O shares the benefit – The Boston Globe (article may be behind a registration barrier).