Physicist Amory Lovins to speak at Vail Symposium, TEDxVail, Jan. 5-6 |

Physicist Amory Lovins to speak at Vail Symposium, TEDxVail, Jan. 5-6

Daily staff report

Physicist Amory Lovins will speak at a standalone lecture today in a special addition to the Vail Symposium's winter schedule at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. He will also participate as one of nearly 20 speakers in the annual TEDxVail event on Friday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Lovins is co-founder, chief scientist and chairman emeritus of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and he has been an advisor of advanced energy efficiency to major firms and governments for longer than 40 years in more than 65 countries.

He is the author of 31 books and more than 600 papers, and he is the recipient of 12 honorary doctorates. In 2009, "Time Magazine" named him one of the world's 100 most influential people, and "Foreign Policy" also named him as one of the 100 top global thinkers. In 2016, the president of Germany awarded him the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit, that nation's highest civilian award.

Lovins' talk with the Symposium is titled "Disruptive Energy Futures." As it confronts troubling fundamentals, the global oil industry's most basic challenge is not lowered prices but weakening demand, as customers find new ways to save or displace oil. Meanwhile, the electricity industry's basic assumptions since the 1890s are being challenged in many different ways, including by new technologies and energy entrepreneurs.

Together, these two emergent stories of profound disruption bring into question almost everything we thought we knew about energy. Here, Lovins answers four questions relating to what he will address during his lecture with the Symposium and his time on stage at TEDxVail.

1. VAIL SYMPOSIUM: Tell us what the title of your talk "Disruptive Energy Futures" means?

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AMORY LOVINS: In brief, the two big stories in energy — oil and electricity — are both developing in unexpected directions that will shake the existing industries to their core and replace many of them with unforeseen competitors. I'm using "disruptive" in the sense Clay Christensen explicated from 1995: "A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances."

2. VS: You have mentioned that oil suppliers are more at risk from new technologies than climate regulation. Do you, then, feel we are having the right kinds of conversations as they relates to energy policy and combating changes in climate caused by human activity?

LOVINS: No. Most oil owners think they will flourish if climate and other regulations are removed, but that won't make most of their product profitable. Most fossil-fuel defenders think they're at risk mainly from climate regulation, but they're much more at risk from market competition. Most policymakers and many citizens assume climate protection will be costly, but done properly, it's profitable, both nationally and globally.

3. VS: If not changes in energy policy for climate regulations, then what do you see as being more of an influencing factor in changing oil and electricity industries: changing consumer preferences on the demand side or emerging technologies on the supply side?

LOVINS: Both. Plus at least a half-dozen other disruptive forces, all reinforcing each other. This is not a simplistic either-or.

4. VS: In all of the social, environmental and economic problems the United States and the world are facing, how does energy fit in?

LOVINS: Centrally. Getting energy right will profitably solve many other problems and make most of the rest easier.

5. VS: Your most popular TED Talk to date outlines a 40-year energy plan. You have also mentioned that we could hit global peak oil in as few as five years and profitability of oil alternatives by 2050. Has the pace of innovation in energy today suddenly quickened?

LOVINS: Yes. "The Reinventing Fire" thesis (elaborated in a 2011 book of that title) summarized in that talk is about on track so far (2010-16). It's being implemented in the market much as we foresaw, but with renewables going a mite faster because the private sector smells the $5 trillion on the table. But, in the past year or two, the energy transition has gone into fast-forward. A comparable strategy has been adopted in China, and all 195 other countries have aligned around a milder but broadly similar approach.

If you go …

What: “Disruptive Energy Futures,” with Amory Lovins

When: Thursday, Jan. 5; 5:30 p.m. reception, and 6 p.m. program.

Where: Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: $25 online before 2 p.m. on the day of the event, $35 at the door, $10 for students and teachers.

More information: Visit or call 970-476-0954.

If you go …

What: <R>evolution TEDxVail2017, with 20-plus speakers, including Amory Lovins

When: 1 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.

Cost: $100; includes all speakers, all sessions.

More information: Visit for tickets.