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Arthur H. Rosenfeld
In Memoriam

Arthur H. Rosenfeld

Professor of Physics, Emeritus
Distinguished Scientist Emeritus, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

UC Berkeley

Arthur Hinton Rosenfeld passed away Friday, January 27, 2017. He was 90 years old. In a statement, California’s Governor Jerry Brown said, “Art Rosenfeld helped make California the world leader in energy efficiency… His path breaking ideas transformed our energy sector from one of massive waste to increasingly elegant efficiency. I will miss him.”

Over the course of Rosenfeld’s career, he inspired thousands of students, postdocs, and other researchers to make the world a better (and more efficient) place, and motivated policy-makers to adopt his innovative ideas with a combination of personal charm and convincing analysis. His quick wit, enthusiasm, and unrivaled personal energy made him a beloved figure in the world of energy efficiency policy and technology.

His many awards and honors include the Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest (1986), the U.S. Department of Energy's Carnot Award for Energy Efficiency (1993), the Berkeley Citation (2001) from the University of California, Berkeley, the Global Energy Prize from President Medvedev of Russia (2011), the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama (2011), and the Tang Prize for Sustainable Development (2016), the world’s highest prize in this area.

Of all his prizes he was most proud of the Enrico Fermi Award in 2005, the oldest and one of the most prestigious science and technology awards given by the U.S. government, recognizing scientists of international stature for a lifetime of exceptional achievement in the development, use, control, or production of energy. Rosenfeld received the Fermi Award from U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman on behalf of President George W. Bush, "for a lifetime of achievement ranging from pioneering scientific discoveries in experimental nuclear and particle physics to innovations in science, technology, and public policy for energy conservation that continue to benefit humanity."

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 22, 1926, Rosenfeld spent his childhood years in Egypt, where his father was a consultant to the Egyptian sugarcane industry. He graduated with a B.S. in physics at age 18, enlisted in the U.S. Navy towards the end of World War II, and afterwards enrolled in the Physics Department of the University of Chicago, where Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi accepted him as his last graduate student. His first publication success was in 1949 as coauthor of a widely read and translated textbook, Nuclear Physics by Fermi, Orear, Rosenfeld, and Schluter.

After receiving his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Chicago in 1954, Rosenfeld joined the Department of Physics faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where he joined (and from 1969 to 1974, led) the renowned particle physics group ("Group A") at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), under the guidance of Luis Alvarez. The group’s discoveries led to the Nobel Prize in Physics for Alvarez in 1968. Rosenfeld was one of a small coterie of colleagues Alvarez brought with him to Stockholm to share in his success.

Rosenfeld retired from UC Berkeley in 1994 to become the senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the Clinton administration, from 1994 through 1999. He served as commissioner at the California Energy Commission (CEC), after California Governor Gray Davis appointed him in 2000. He was reappointed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2010 he returned to LBNL and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. That same year he was appointed Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at LBNL. Until his death he devoted his attention to an international campaign for the adoption of white roofs and "cool colored" surfaces to reduce heat islands and mitigate global warming.

Professor John Holdren, director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Barack Obama said, "Art Rosenfeld had an enormous impact on U.S. energy policy, starting in the early 1970s, with his insights and compelling quantitative analyses pointing to the potential of increased end-use efficiency as the cheapest, cleanest, surest response to the nation's energy challenges."

Even when expressing controversial ideas (which he often did), Rosenfeld was disarming and whimsical, never putting his ego in the debate. He communicated a sense of wonder and innocence, all the while recognizing the importance of getting the numbers right. He unerringly identified the right problems to target, and had the persistence to apply research results to advocacy with genuine societal impact. He did this with a friendly and collegial charm—reflected in the fact that his students referred to him as "Art" rather than the expected "Professor Rosenfeld".

The oil embargo of 1973 galvanized Rosenfeld, leading him, with several colleagues, to frame the energy problem as "Accomplishing society's goals most efficiently and cheaply" rather than "How to supply enough energy." This reframing was revolutionary in an era that most people thought energy consumption and economic growth always increased in lockstep.

Following a yearlong "sabbatical" from particle physics, Rosenfeld chose to continue his work on the efficient use of energy, mainly in buildings. He eventually founded the Center for Building Science at LBNL, which he led until 1994. Rosenfeld attracted a cadre of talented, creative, and energetic people to LBNL in the 1970s and early 1980s, and they helped him build a world-class center for energy and environment studies. The center also inspired a small army of students at UC Berkeley to focus on energy efficiency, and these researchers helped build the energy efficiency industry once they left the university.

Rosenfeld‘s contributions to the fledgling discipline of building science were seminal, and he is widely considered the father of energy efficiency. The Center for Building Science developed a broad range of energy efficiency technologies, including electronic ballasts for fluorescent lighting—a key component of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)—and a transparent coating for window glass that blocks heat from either escaping (winter) or entering (summer). He was personally responsible for developing the DOE-2 series of computer programs for building energy analysis and design; they have remained the gold standard for building energy analysis for more than 25 years.

Rosenfeld’s work quickly propelled him into policy. Art worked with legislators, regulators and the then-new California Energy Commission to implement inexpensive efficiency policies that made a slew of proposed plants superfluous. California's peak demand, which once grew as fast as the state’s economy, has been a consistent 60 gigawatts from the 1970s oil crises to today. Thanks to Dr. Rosenfeld, the state avoided at least $75 billion in investments in new plants that were no longer needed.

Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy and former director of LBNL, recalled:

 "I was a graduate student at Berkeley during the … 1973 OPEC Oil embargo. I remember a Physics Colloquium Art in the mid-1970s gave where he outlined a number of common-sense actions …I didn't understand why a successful high-energy physicist in his mid-forties was willing to abruptly abandon a distinguished career and turn to energy efficiency. Over the years, I grew to appreciate how his indefatigable, high-energy devotion to our energy challenges became a role model for a large number of younger scientists, including myself. It is a privilege to have known and worked with Art, who is a warm, gracious and generous individual…

The legacy of his impact is staggering. Before the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo, electric use per capita in US as a whole and in California, in particular, was growing out of control at 5%/yr. The US responded remarkably to the oil shortage and price shock, and has reduced its electric growth rate to 1.5% per year, but that still adds up to a 50% increase from 1973 to 2012. California's response has been even more remarkable. The State has frozen per capita electricity growth, despite huge electrification, by methodical introduction of advanced appliance and building standards and the creation of a $1B/yr energy efficiency program funded by a "public goods" charge on electric bills. This marked change in per capita energy was accurately identified as the "Rosenfeld Effect," which is continuing today, four decades later. California is now down to energy intensity levels comparable with Western Europe."

Rosenfeld was the co-founder of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), and the University of California's Institute for Energy and the Environment (CIEE). He was the author or coauthor of over 400 refereed publications or book chapters.

Art married Roselyn Bernheim in 1955; she passed away in 2009. They had three children, Margaret, Anne, and Art Junior (Chip). Dr. Rosenfeld is survived by daughters Dr. Margaret Rosenfeld and Dr. Anne Hansen, two granddaughters and four grandsons, as well as the entire energy efficiency community.

Dana Buntrock
Ashok Gadgil
David B. Goldstein
Jonathan Koomey