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April 27, 2006

Berkeley's Art Rosenfeld Wins Fermi Award

BERKELEY, CA — Arthur Rosenfeld, 79, acclaimed high-energy physicist turned energy-conservation savant, veteran researcher/educator for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley, and two-time appointee to the California Energy Commission, has won the Enrico Fermi Award, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious awards for scientific achievement.  Administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on behalf of the White House, this presidential award carries an honorarium of $375,000 and a gold medal.  In winning the Fermi Award, Rosenfeld joins an august pantheon of other Berkeley recipients that includes Ernest and John Lawrence, Robert Oppenheimer, Glenn Seaborg, Martin Kamen and Luis Alvarez.

Art Rosenfeld spacer image
Art Rosenfeld

“Art Rosenfeld is our 'poster child' of a scientist who moved from a thriving career in basic research in order to address a problem of immediate national need,” said Berkeley Lab director Steven Chu.  “He embodies the finest spirit of scientific inquiry applied to solving real-world problems.  Besides being the founder of Berkeley Lab’s highly regarded environmental energy technologies program, he moved on to become a senior advisor at the Department of Energy and, today, a member of the California Energy Commission. He was personally responsible for saving this country billions of dollars in energy costs since the 1970s through his work on the frontiers of energy analysis, standards and technologies. In Sacramento, he has led the transformation of this state's policy framework to energy efficiency, with dramatic results.”

Chu added that, on this 75th Anniversary of Berkeley Lab's founding, it is appropriate to honor someone of the stature of Rosenfeld “whose achievements have brought distinction to our institution and pride to our profession.”

In his announcement of the award, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said, “Dr. Rosenfeld’s career provides an example of the breadth of science — from the fundamental to the practical — that the Department of Energy supports.  Dr. Rosenfeld is one of the founding fathers of energy efficiency, and the legacy of his research and policy work is an entire new energy efficiency sector of our economy, which now yields an astounding annual savings of around $100 billion, and growing.” 

The Enrico Fermi Award honors the late great Nobel laureate who designed and built the first nuclear reactor and led the epochal experiment that demonstrated the first self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. Rosenfeld was a graduate student of Fermi’s at the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1954.  Rosenfeld joined the UC Berkeley physics department the following year, and became a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab (then known as the Rad Lab).  He became a protégé of the Nobel laureate (and fellow Fermi Award winner) Luis Alvarez.  As a member of Alvarez’s particle physics group, Rosenfeld played a key role in the development of the bubble chambers used to analyze the data coming out of “atom smashers,” as particle accelerators were called back then.  Rosenfeld would go on to assume the leadership of Alvarez’s group.

In October of 1973, the OPEC oil embargo hit, resulting in huge lines of cars at the gas pumps, and a thrashed U.S. economy.  Rosenfeld was quick to realize that the best long-term solution to the crisis was for the U.S. to stop wasting so much energy.  He organized a month-long workshop at Princeton University that drew top scientists and engineers who were experts on energy and utilities, transportation, and building design and utilization.  The building sector consumes one third of the primary energy and two-thirds of the electricity used in the U.S. each year.

Speaking about that workshop, Rosenfeld once said: “We realized we had found one of the world’s largest oil and gas fields. The energy was buried, in effect, in the buildings of our cities, the vehicles on our roads, and the machines in our factories. A few of us began to suspect that the knowledge we gained during that month would change our lives.”

In 1975, he founded the Center for Building Science at Berkeley Lab, where over the next 20 years a broad range of energy efficiency technologies were developed, including electronic ballasts that led to compact fluorescent lamps, and low-emissivity “Smart windows,” a coating for glass that allows light in but blocks heat from either entering (summer) or escaping (winter).

As an energy scientist, Rosenfeld is perhaps best known for his role in developing the DOE-2 whole building simulation program, which continues to serve as the international benchmark for energy-efficiency simulation codes; and for his start-up of the cool surfaces and heat islands research programs, which are credited with yielding an energy savings of 40-percent while reducing air pollution by 12-percent.

Unlike many scientists who do their research and leave the applications to others, Rosenfeld has successfully championed his energy-conservation beliefs in the public arena.  In 1994, he left Berkeley to become the senior advisor to DOE's Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  He also served on President Clinton's National Science and Technology Council.  In 2000, he was appointed to the California Energy Commission by Governor Gray Davis, and reappointed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger January 26, 2005.  As a Commissioner, Rosenfeld has worked with the California Public Utilities Commission to institute time-dependent prices for electricity and “smart meters” to record electric use hour-by-hour.  

Rosenfeld received the Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest in 1986, and the Carnot Award for Energy Efficiency from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1993. He is the co-founder of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), the University of California's Institute for Energy Efficiency (CIEE), and the Washington-based Center for Energy and Climate Solutions (CECS). In 2004, he won the City of Berkeley’s Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal. 

Rosenfeld will receive the Fermi Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., at a date to be announced.

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