Energy Efficiency “Godfather” Rosenfeld Recognized with 2016 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development

  • Known in energy circles as the “Godfather” of energy efficiency, Arthur Rosenfeld was named today as the recipient of the 2016 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development.
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Known in energy circles as the “Godfather” of energy efficiency, Arthur Rosenfeld was named today as the recipient of the 2016 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development “for his lifelong and pioneering innovations in energy efficiency resulting in immense reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions around the world.”


Today (June 18) was the first day of the 2016 Tang Prize announcements, which will be delivered in Taiwan from June 18-21. Announcing the prize in Sustainable Development was former Academia Sinica President and 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Yuan Tseh Lee. Lee was joined on stage by Current Acting President of the Academia Sinica Wang Fan-sen and Academician Liu Chao-han. Jenn-Chuan Chern, Tang Prize CEO, delivered the opening remarks.


In a career spanning academia and government, Rosenfeld has left a lasting legacy in technology and policy. Rosenfeld founded the now world-famous Center for Building Science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1974 and headed the center until 1994. Under his direction, the center developed several energy-saving technologies and analysis tools. These include high-frequency electronic ballasts, “smart windows,” and the building energy analysis programs DOE-1, DOE-2, as well as the current gold standard Energy Plus. Rosenfeld later served as the Senior Advisor to the U.S. Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from 1994-1999, then as California’s Energy Commissioner from 2000-2010, where his savings impact is most prominent.


In addition to the technological and political arenas, the affable “Godfather” has left a lasting impact through his disciples. Academician Liu Chao-han, in his introduction to the awardee, noted that two generations of scientists and policymakers have been influenced by Rosenfeld. Nobel Laureate Stephen Chu has mentioned Rosenfeld in particular as a hero and inspiration in his own career. Even the prize’s announcer, the 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Yuan Tseh Lee, knew Rosenfeld personally during his time at Berkeley and was taken with his influence. “Was I influenced by Rosenfeld? Of course. Many were. His influence through his students has been immense,” Lee said.


Palpable impact is also one of the reasons Rosenfeld’s work was considered worthy of recognition by the prize. His economical methods are estimated to save $1.8 trillion and 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2030, according to a 2001 US National Academy of Sciences report. Liu stressed in his introduction that the savings are most apparent in California, where per-capita energy usage has remained flat, even while the national average is on a steady rise. This trend has been called the “Rosenfeld Effect” by those in the field.


After today’s announcement in Sustainable Development, the three remaining prizes—Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law, will be announced on June 19, 20, and 21. The announcements will be streamed live at 10AM (Taiwan, GMT +8) on the Tang Prize website at