What Does Negawatt Mean?

A “negawatt,” which literally means a negative or an inverse megawatt, is a hypothetical unit of power for measuring the amount of energy saved (in megawatts) because of efficient power consumption.


The term was a typo of “megawatt” and was popularized in 1989 by environmentalist Amory Lovins, who is also the chairman and the chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute (Snowmass, CO, USA), after seeing the typo in a Colorado Public Utilities Commission report.

Techopedia Explains Negawatt

On the face of it, “negawatt” may sound like a term that simply represents cutting down energy consumption and improving a carbon footprint. The main uses of the term involve situations where companies save energy and then sell it back to electrical grids. There is something called a demand-response industry that looks closely at levels of energy consumption, where saving a megawatt can generate certain types of profit or revenue. Companies can do this by altering heating, cooling and plumbing systems, and using solar power or other kinds of strategies.

The resulting shift toward this kind of energy consumption model is called the negawatt revolution, and energy industry experts are counting on efforts such as cap and trade legislation in order to understand how the measurement and conservation of energy can help change the way people and industry view energy use in the future.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…