Culture 3 min read

RIP Art Rosenfeld, Godfather of Energy Efficiency

RIP Art Rosenfeld, Godfather of Energy Efficiency

After spending a lifetime fighting for energy efficiency and innovation, famous physicist Arthur Hinton Rosenfeld died Friday, January 27, 2017, at age 90.

When the Iran oil embargo struck the U.S. in 1973, Art Rosenfeld was staring at office buildings in California’s Bay Area, wondering why thousands of energy inefficient lights remained glowing all day and night despite long periods of inactivity.

#ArtRosenfeld passed January 27, 2017 leaving an energy efficient legacy.Click To Tweet

It was these questions that drove him to create the field of energy efficiency and affect energy saving policy.

California’s “Godfather” of Energy Efficiency

Art, as he was referred to by his students, died at the age of 90 at his home in Berkeley, not far from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where he served as a professor.

Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Alliance, was also a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Rosenfeld was born on June 22, 1926. He grew up in Egypt where his father worked as a consultant to the sugar cane industry. He graduated with a B.S. in physics at 18 before joining the Navy towards the end of World War II.

Art Rosenfeld accepted his Ph.D. in Physics in 1954 and subsequently joined the physics faculty at UC Berkeley, where he led the “Group A” particle physics group for Nobel Prize winner Luis Alvarez at LBNL.

But it was the 1973 Iran oil embargo that triggered a decades-long career dedicated to energy efficiency.

He understood America’s vulnerability and, in some ways, attributed it to the nation’s inefficient use of energy. His Socratic determination to find energy efficient solutions requiring little investment is purported to have saved California and the U.S. some $60 billion USD in wasted investment.

During Governor Jerry Brown‘s first term, Art Rosenfeld recommended requiring more energy efficient refrigerators rather than building the Sundesert Nuclear Power Plant. Brown took Art’s advice, and California saved enough energy to forego constructing the power plant.

Art’s career has been honored with countless awards, including the Enrico Fermi Award by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2006. Art Rosenfeld was Enrico Fermi’s last accepted graduate student in particle physics at the University of Chicago. Art also won the Global Energy Prize in 2011.

Art Rosenfeld and the Art of Energy Efficiency

When the cost of oil skyrocketed and drivers waited in long lines to buy gas, Rosenfeld thought about how much energy would be saved just by turning off extra lights.

“After 20 minutes of uncovering light switches and saving (100 gallons for the weekend),” Rosenfeld stated in his autobiography The Art of Energy Efficiency, “I decided that UC Berkeley and its Radiation Laboratory should do something about conservation.”

Rosenfeld asked questions about the efficient use of energy until the end of his life. He was a critical figure in the U.S. journey toward energy independence.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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