In the mid-1970s, following the oil embargoes as a U.S. Senate energy aide, those of us promoting a clean energy future were ridiculed. While we had public support, we lacked the analytical back-up because these technological approaches were so new, and the emerging industries were so immature. Visionaries like Amory Lovins and Dennis Hayes worked mightily to fill that gap.
In 1980, Art Rosenfeld and others formed a nonprofit think tank, the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) as a reaction to President Carter’s first budget. The President proposed $88 billion for alternative fuels, and according to Rosenfeld, “for conservation he proposed a sweater.” So through ACEEE, he proposed to do a study. Today ACEEE is the leading analytical group in energy efficiency on federal and state energy policy.
ACEEE posted a video tribute about Art Rosenfeld:
In 1994, he moved east to serve in the Clinton Administration as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, where he worked on climate change and low-carbon technologies. As he wrote in a 1999 article, his calculations questioning the need for more power plants in 1975 angered the utilities: “PG&E called LBNL to complain that physicists were unqualified to project electricity-demand scenarios and suggested Rosenfeld be fired.”
In 2000, California Gov. Gray Davis appointed him Commissioner at the California Energy Commission (CEC), and in 2005 he was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. As Secretary of Energy, Chu appointed him in 2010 to serve on the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.
According to Lawrence Berkley Laboratory, “After 10 years on the CEC Rosenfeld returned to Berkeley Lab in 2010 to the Heat Island Group he helped launch in 1985. Its mission is to investigate how cooler surfaces can help cool cities while also cooling the planet. In recent years he was a vocal advocate for cool roofs, co-authoring several papers on how cool roofs can offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate global warming. In total he has authored or co-authored more than 400 refereed publications or book chapters.”
In 2012, President Barack Obama named him one of 11 recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, one of the highest honors bestowed by the United States Government upon scientists, engineers, and inventors.
There is no one alive that has had more influence on energy efficiency. I tell my students at GWU that energy efficiency contributes18 percent of U.S. energy, and that it is ALWAYS less expensive to save energy than generate energy from any source.
Art Rosenfeld has had a huge influence on global energy policy, and we have lost a giant, a leader, a thinker, and a fighter. He was a friend and colleague — always willing to contribute his thoughts when asked, and most importantly, a kind and decent human being. He will be missed.