Extreme Energy Efficiency

Straubel Foundation and Jane Woodward To Send Stanford Students To RMI To Develop “Whole Systems” Thinking With Amory Lovins and Create a More Energy Efficient Future

For freshman JB Straubel, professor Jane Woodward’s Energy Resources class in the Fall of 1994 was exactly the type of stimulating intellectual environment he’d been hoping to find at Stanford.

“On the first day of class he sat in the front row,” recalls Professor Woodward, who has taught at Stanford on energy and environment since 1991. “We had a wonderful conversation after the first lecture where I gently prodded him to tell me about how he had retrofitted a golf cart to run on ethanol and how he had acquired an agricultural wind turbine and torn it apart in his family’s garage.”

It was a turning point in young JB’s life. The class fueled his interest in energy and inspired him to create his Individually Designed Major (IDM). Taught by some of the most forward-thinking faculty, JB graduated from Stanford with a B.S. and M.S. in Energy Systems Engineering and dedicated his life to developing a more energy-sustainable future.

More than twenty years later, motivated by his own past, Straubel wants to pay it forward. Another catalyst for this project is JB’s wife, Boryana Dineva. Boryana is passionate about growing future leaders. She considers education and access to high quality information a powerful source of inspiration and positive change. In March 2018, the Straubel Foundation is partnering with Professor Woodward to send 38 Stanford students to Colorado for a week long Extreme Energy Efficiency class (E^3) at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). For JB, it’s a way to honor a professor who helped shape his future, and has more than likely shaped the future by sparking the curiosity of so many in such a critical space.

“I’m thrilled that JB and Boryana have partnered with me to make it possible for Stanford students to get exposed to the best ideas of Rocky Mountain Institute and its co-founder and thought leader, Amory Lovins, in the state-of-the-art RMI Innovation Center in Basalt, CO.”
— Professor Woodward

Professor Woodward is still co-teaching the same class JB took, now called Understanding Energy, to a new crop of eager students every Autumn and Spring quarter. Woodward is also the founder and CEO of MAP, a renewable energy and natural gas investment firm.

Extreme Energy Efficiency week will be hosted by Amory Lovins, co-founder and Chief Scientist of RMI, and someone who made a significant impression on a young JB Straubel. Lovins’s bold ideas have landed him on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Foreign Policy Magazine’s 100 top global thinkers.

Founded in 1982, RMI has become an unusually bold cross-pollination hub for businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs. The Institute seeks solutions that are an order-of-magnitude better than the status quo — yet cost less — turning diminishing returns into expanding returns. Lovins himself practices what he preaches. He lives in a home that is a ongoing experiment: a super-insulated, super-efficient, passive-solar marvel that our students will have a chance to visit. The home is net-energy-positive, passively heated and cooled, and has no mechanical equipment except air-to-air heat exchangers.

Inside, Amory and his photographer wife Judy are awaiting their 70th passive-solar banana crop, in a home amid harsh Colorado winters.

Evening summer view of the outdoor garden at the Banana Farm (in Colorado)    Proto credit: Judy Hill Lovins

Evening summer view of the outdoor garden at the Banana Farm (in Colorado)

Proto credit: Judy Hill Lovins

Over the past few decades, Lovins and his colleagues have developed a novel suite of ‘integrative design’ techniques that apply ‘whole systems’ thinking to achieve extreme energy and resource efficiency. This approach to optimizing the whole system for multiple benefits, rather than isolated components for single benefits, has yielded enormous energy savings, better performance, and lower capital cost across diverse engineering applications, as the course’s scores of case-studies will illustrate.

That’s the ‘Extreme’ in Extreme Energy Efficiency. At RMI, Stanford students from a variety of backgrounds, including engineering, business, and law, will be learning energy efficiency from world-renowned leaders in their fields.The week will be designed to give students substantive exposure to integrative design for radical energy efficiency, and to train them to innovatively apply what they have learned. Daily workshops will tackle entire sectors, such as Mobility, Buildings, Industry, and “Disruptive Energy Futures.”

Stanford’s E^3 students will acquire new skills, new connections, and new understanding of energy efficiency and whole systems thinking that they can bring back to campus and integrate into their future careers.