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Remembering Art Rosenfeld, California's godfather of energy efficiency

January 27, 2017
Precourt Institute

Art Rosenfeld, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) distinguished scientist, emeritus, known as California’s “godfather” of energy efficiency, died this morning at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 90. A particle physicist, Rosenfeld is credited with creating the field of energy efficiency and inspiring an entire generation of energy researchers, according to an obituary published by the Berkeley Lab.

President Obama awarded Art Rosenfeld a 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation on Feb. 1, 2013. Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

President Obama awarded Art Rosenfeld a 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation on Feb. 1, 2013. (Credit: The White House)


Today, colleagues and friends at Stanford University offered the following remembrances of Rosenfeld:

"Art was everybody’s hero and inspiration. As one colleague said, Art embodied the phrase 'a life well lived.' I first met Art 40 years ago, and we have been friends and colleagues ever since.  Through his leadership on energy efficiency, California has saved billion of dollars and avoided major health and environmental impacts.  We worked together closely as commissioners at California’s energy agencies, collaborating on new initiatives, such as white roofs and visits to China, India and elsewhere to spread Art’s vision on energy efficiency.  We will all keep working on Art's dreams." Dian Grueneich, senior research scholar, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and Shultz-Stephenson Energy Policy Task Force

"When I took over as director of the Berkeley Lab division that he started and involved people that he inspired, it was for me the singular moment in my life to learn about energy broadly, and energy efficiency specifically, from him and his former students. It changed my life forever. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for all he has done for energy efficiency for California, for the United States and for the world." Arun Majumdar, professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy

"Over 40 years ago, in the midst of the 1973 oil-embargo-created gasoline lines, Art Rosenfeld first used his expertise as a physicist to ask how to solve energy problems by using energy more efficiently.  California's leadership in energy efficiency for the last four decades has been the direct result of his subsequent actions as a scientist, policymaker and intellectual leader.  He inspired me, as he did many energy leaders.  It is safe to say that without Art Rosenfeld, energy would now be costing all California families a far larger share of their income and would thus have a lower quality of life." James Sweeney, professor of management science & engineering and director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center

"Over the past four decades, Art worked tirelessly to advance energy efficiency in the U.S. and more recently, around the world. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the work Art pioneered is now indispensable in how the world transitions to a sustainable future. On a more personal note, Art was one of the most decent, generous, engaging, passionate and thoughtful people that I have known. His engaging persistence in asking interesting, important questions, while being completely open to new ideas, made him a compelling colleague. He has inspired over two generations of researchers in the field of energy efficiency; I include myself among those inspired." Steven Chu, professor of physics and of molecular & cellular biology 

In 2014, Chu, Grueneich and other colleagues recorded the following video tribute to Rosenfeld, who also founded the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE):