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What is eLab?

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What’s the most important new source of competitive advantage in today’s rapidly changing electricity sector? Arguably, it’s not technology or market position, it’s the ability of innovators to work efficiently and effectively in complex multi-stakeholder environments.

Rapid innovation and change, cooperation and conflict, are occurring at the “seams” in the electricity sector: places where no single stakeholder or industry group can control the outcome. Demand response, energy efficiency, distributed solar, electric vehicles, smart grid interfaces—all these require collaboration, shared learning, and a system view of what is needed to ensure affordability and reliability.

Shifting the electricity sector will require engagement and innovation across traditional institutional boundaries, and Rocky Mountain Institute is convening the Electricity Innovation Lab (eLab) to address this need.
 

Structure

eLab is a multi-year program that regularly brings together key thought leaders and decision makers to identify, test, and spread practical innovations to key institutional, regulatory, business, economic, and technical barriers slowing the transformation of the U.S. electricity system. The underlying belief is that fostering collective innovation, using collaborative and creative approaches, is one of the most powerful ways to address complex problems.

eLab has three annual working group meetings, coupled with on-going project work. As part of each working group meeting, participants go on learning journeys—visits to learn about a particular site, situation, or innovation to stimulate thinking and ground the group in practical reality.

Scope

eLab focuses on the U.S. electricity system, although our work is informed by international experience. We are open to innovations across the sector and of various scales, but will focus initially on issues at the “distribution edge.”

eLab will initially address three key challenges (though they will evolve over time), including:

  • How can we understand and effectively communicate the costs and benefits of distributed resources as part of the electric grid?
  • How can we harmonize business models of utilities and distributed resource developers?
  • How can we accelerate the pace of distributed resource adoption?