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James Mandel



  • Buildings
  • Disruptive Technologies

James (Jamie) Mandel is a Principal at Rocky Mountain Institute, working in the electricity practice. He focuses on disruptive and emerging technologies, including solar, storage, smart controls, and microgrids. Highlights of this work include economic analysis of solar and battery systems, analysis of the value of distributed storage to reduce grid costs, and developing business models based on flexible demand resources. Jamie also plays a leadership role in RMI’s work with communities, which includes the city of Fort Collins. RMI worked with Fort Collins Utilities to develop a new, customer-centric business model and with the City to develop and pass a plan to reduce 80% of its emissions by 2030.


From 2009-2013, James was an engagement manager at McKinsey and Company in Philadelphia. James served Fortune 500 companies in energy, chemicals, manufacturing, and high tech sectors on operational and strategic issues. He was also a fellow in the Sustainability and Resource Productivity practice focused on efficient manufacturing in process-based industries, as well as developing new sustainability business lines. In addition to working with companies, James also served city, state, and federal agencies on large-scale transformations.

From 2004-2009, James earned a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University, focusing on animal movement patterns in response to changes in weather. Concurrently, James served as an associate with Advanced Conservation Strategies, a non-profit devoted to developing market-based solutions to conservation challenges. From 2002-2004, James worked for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama as Systems Manager for an Automated RadioTelemetry System (ARTS) for tracking rainforest animals.


Princeton University, Bachelor of Arts, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (2002)
Cornell University, Doctor of Philosophy, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (2009),
Minor (2-year traineeship) in nonlinear dynamics and systems thinking


Basalt, CO



Authored Blog Posts

Next-Generation Controls: The Missing Link of High-Performing Buildings

With many exciting advances in data analytics, machine learning, grid integration, user interaction, and renewable energy technologies entering the buildings industry, it is easy to get caught up in the vision and potential of high-performance buildings. The unfortunate reality is that many buildings designed to high-performance standards struggle to deliver…

Why We Still Need To Discuss Grid Defection

The rapidly declining costs of distributed energy resources (DERs), including rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) and behind-the-meter batteries, have introduced new dynamics into a traditionally slow-moving electricity industry. This paradigm shift has ushered us into a new era where previous assumptions about how, where, and at what scale electricity is best…

Capturing the Full Benefits of Demand Flexibility

Demand flexibility—allowing household devices like HVAC systems and smart appliances to interact with the electric grid in response to real-time price changes—can save customers money and lower the overall cost of electricity. In our recent paper, The Economics of Demand Flexibility, we analyzed the economics of making common…

Fixed Charges Don’t ‘Fix’ the Problem

Pricing structures matter—not just for the timing of cost-effective solar-plus-battery economics but also how investment in solar-plus-battery systems might evolve and what the future electricity grid could look like.

Report Release: The Economics of Load Defection

The Economics of Load Defection is a new report that analyzes how grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems will become cost competitive with traditional retail electric service and why it matters to financiers, regulators, utilities, and other electricity system stakeholders.

Fort Collins Steps Up, Approves Accelerated Climate Target

Sometimes leadership arises from impatience. In Fort Collins, Colorado—a city known for its pragmatic, can-do attitude—getting on with the business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t have to wait for international treaties, federal mandates, or carbon taxes. This week, the Fort Collins City Council voluntarily adopted revised climate action goals…

Keep Solar Finance Weird? …Hopefully Not

If distributed solar is to attain anywhere close to the penetration levels RMI outlined in Reinventing Fire, its financing must become much more boring and less weird. It should start to look like everyday financing.

Solar Securitization

At the end of November, SolarCity issued the first publicly known solar asset-backed securitization (ABS), selling $54 million of bundled cash payments. It was a major milestone that many in the distributed solar industry have eagerly awaited.