Energy efficiency probably doesn’t sound too exciting to most people, but saving hundreds of dollars without having to do anything about it probably does. Not to mention reducing pollution and fiscal waste. And that is the legacy of Art Rosenfeld, who passed away last week at the age of 90.
Most people have probably never heard of him, but back in the 1970s Mr. Rosenfeld pioneered the idea of energy efficiency standards for new homes and appliances. These standards became law in California and have spread nationwide. As the San Francisco Chronicle obituary reads:
His quest for energy efficiencies led to breakthroughs in a host of areas that affect every person in California: buildings with low-energy electric lights, like compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs; kitchens with low-energy refrigerators; and glass windows that trap heat.
Economists have estimated that those efficiencies have saved Americans countless billions of dollars.
As he pursued his technical efforts, Mr. Rosenfeld also maintained a powerful public focus on persuading utilities and government policymakers that requiring energy-efficient power plants could not only save dollars but would also curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.
I never overlapped with him when he was based at UC Berkeley, but I had colleagues who worked with him and spoke reverently of him and his work. It’s rare to have one person so embody a major field like Rosenfeld did of energy efficiency. His contributions to the environment and all of our pocketbooks are enormous, and we would do well to continue carrying on his legacy and life’s work.