Remembering a Visionary Figure in Energy: Tang Prize Laureate Art Rosenfeld

  • Arthur Rosenfeld, 2016 Tang Prize Laureate in Sustainable Development
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White roofing, appliance energy standards, building analysis programs and construction policies—in his over 40 years of work in energy, Arthur Rosenfeld has given the world a number of practical ways to use energy in smart and efficient ways.


From his beginnings in particle physics, Rosenfeld made an abrupt career change in the midst of the 1970’s Oil Crisis. His solution to the massive energy demand was at the time a radical proposition: rather than building more power plants to survive the energy crisis, Rosenfeld suggested that more energy could be “freed-up” by using energy more efficiently. After all, as he was wont to say, “The cheapest energy is what you don't use.”


Tapping the unused resources of wasted energy was easier said than done. Rosenfeld began with a notorious energy sink: refrigerators. In 1972 the average refrigerator consumed 2000 kilowatt hours per year, or $200 on the household energy bill. Finding those numbers unacceptable, Rosenfeld proposed energy standards that pushed energy consumption in refrigerators down, to 1400 kilowatt hours in 1978, and to a mere 250 in recent years.


Energy standards and technologies under Rosenfeld’s auspices have kept per-capita energy use in California flat over the past 35-plus years, even while energy for the US overall has continued to climb. This has been dubbed the “Rosenfeld Effect” by energy scientists.


Rosenfeld passed away on January 27, 2017, at Berkeley at the age of 90. The Tang Prize Foundation hereby remembers the life and legacy of Art Rosenfeld, a visionary in sustainable development.