June 18, 2020


In Reinventing Fire, Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute offer a new vision to revitalize business models, end-run Washington gridlock, and win the. Reinventing Fire has ratings and 24 reviews. the Kindle edition of Amory Lovins’ latest book “Inventing Fire – Bold Solutions for the New Energy Era”. Reinventing Fire: Bold New Solutions for the New Energy Era Amory Lovins Rocky Mountains Institute, A note on the energy chapters in.

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This book continues the presentation of the Lovins perspective, essentially the claim that there is great scope for conservation measures and alternative technologies to solve our problems and enable maintenance of rich world economies and lifestyles.

My comments refer only to the two energy chapters, one on transport fuel and one on power supply. More importantly, I regard the arguments as quite unsatisfactory and unconvincing. They are almost all superficial; there is no detail and no derivation of conclusions.

Amory Lovins on ‘Reinventing Fire’ with convergence and innovation | GreenBiz

The core issues require numerical analyses; they are about whether or not quantities and targets can be achieved but there are few if any explanations of this kind in the energy chapters. The approach is to make vague and generalised claims, support them with a few spectacular examples, and proceed as if this establishes that the practice in question could be implemented everywhere. Lovins claims huge reductions in energy demand will be achieved by efficiency effort.

There is much discussion of energy reducing technologies, but no case that these would add to the claimed reduction. Regarding the difference conservation etc. Demand is down at present, partly due to the GFC. Note that US population is rising significantly.

Review: “Reinventing Fire” by Amory Lovins

Lovins always has an enthusiastically optimistic view of probable future trends in costs. However discussion of all issues to do with energy, resources, technology, environment and consumption should be based on the assumption that in the near future there are very likely to be large and irreversible rises in the prices of energy, resources, materials, construction, plant and technology etc. These will multiply through the whole economy, impacting further on the construction of new energy technologies, cutting into the availability of capital amor build them in large quantity, and into the incomes and capital available to pay for energy and efficiency improvements.

It is not difficult to show how most or all energy could come from renewables; you just assume enough plant to do it when there is little sun or wind.

My main interest is in the capital cost of the energy technologies required to enable demand to be met at all times, and my general view is that renewable energy will be much too capital costly to run consumer societies.

The best current statement of the case is Trainer, b, and as applied to Australia, c. No reasoning in support for this figure seems to be given in the book. The renewable scenario outlined assumes a generating capacity of 1, GW peak capacity. When these are applied to amofy above capacities that Lovins assumes the total capital cost comes out at around that which he arrives at for the generating plant, i. According to Pfuger and Birol the annual rich world energy investment is about.


Electricity is only about one-fifth of energy used in rich countries.

At higher penetrations problems integrating wind into the supply system become too great. PV contributes nothing for about14 hours on a sunny day, and little through winter days in North America. He assumes a negligible solar thermal contribution.

This seems to mean that he assumes that the PV will be located close to reinventinng, eliminating the need for transmission. He dwells on the virtues of localised generation. But most US consumers are in northerly regions which would be generating very little via PV in winter. He seems to make little or no provision for the huge storage task that would be involved, especially as he does reincenting rely on solar thermal heat reinvejting.

Below it will be asked what happens at night when there is no PV input, and the winds are down across much of the US? The problems of intermittency, big gaps, redundant plant required, and resulting system capital cost. Most of the foregoing numbers are based on annual average demand and output assumptions, and are thus quite misleading.

What matters is the amount of plant needed to cope with peak demandnot average demand, in conditions of minimal availability of renewable sources. Lovins does not discuss these issues. Australian average electricity demand is c. This is unusually high; a 1. However the proposal put forward by Elliston, Diesendorf and MacGill for deriving all Australian electricity from renewable sources requires 84 GW of capacity to meet the average 25 GW demand due to the need for redundant plant, see below.

More importantly, how much wind and solar generating capacity needs to have been built to maintain supply when winds and solar radiation are below average for long periods? For other studies see Trainer, b. They report that in February Western Europe had almost no sun or wind for two weeks, and in this period UK demand reached its highest peak for the year Existing and foreseeable electricity storage technologies cannot possibly cope with such problems.

A typical solar thermal plant in operation today might be capable of storing MWh e. Such problems can only be dealt rejnventing by resort to fossil fuelled or nuclear plant standing by idle much of the time. As Lenzen points out these should be regarded as being parts of the wind and solar system and their cost should be added to the renewable account just as my solar PV house lighting system includes the cost of the emergency generator that is needed from time to time.

Thus renewable energy supply systems involve serious problems to do with the provision of redundant plant, and these greatly increase system capital costs. Even though there might be a very low probability of lovims almost all load, from time to time that will happen even from a combined wind and solar system extending over a continental area, as Oswald and others have shown.


Reinventing Fire

Firstly, as Oswald et al. But even if it is, the question is, where is it blowing this time? Thus a supply system containing much solar and wind capacity is very rinventing to also have to also need a lot of generating capacity that runs on coal, gas, or nuclear fuels.

Globally biomass is much too limited to do the job; see below. It is difficult to assess the transport fuel chapter as it seems to consist mainly of very optimistic claims for which little or no demonstration or derivation is given, and which seem quite implausible.

It is not helpful to have impressive possibilities mentioned; what matters is evidence which enables quantitative conclusions. Lovins says business as usual transport energy consumption will go to 25 million barrels a day by but his proposals will cut it to 3.

Plots are given attributing the reduction to various factors but without any case showing that these reductions are plausible. No evidence or argument is given to indicate that this is technically plausible or socially achievable. Note that a major reducing factor is transfer of much transport to electrical drive, adding to the reasons for questioning the above greatly reduced electrical demand claim.

We would need to see that there has not been double counting here and the lack of explanation does not enable this. There seems to be no discussion of the embodied energy ,ovins of electric vehicles. They will be lighter but the new plastic bodies are likely to have at least three times the cost per kg of steel. In addition lithium etc. The global availability of exotic battery materials is also not considered. These notes indicate that it would be far too capital costly for the US to run largely on renewable energy.

Yet this sum represents an annual investment that is probably 2. Surprisingly, figures on national energy investment seem not to be recorded. As I have often stressed, critiques like this do not imply that renewable energy should be abandoned.

Trainer, d and Integrated Life Cycle Analysis, Dept. A revised negative case. Trainer, T, dThe Aory Way website, http: He has taught and written about sustainability and justice issues for many years. He is also developing Pigface Point, an alternative lifestyle educational site near Sydney.

Many of his writings are available free at his website The Simpler Way. Menu Resilience Building a world of resilient communities.

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