Unit for Electricity Savings Named After 'Godfather' of Energy Efficiency

The Rosenfeld, proposed as a unit for electricity savings, will be named after the man seen by many people as the godfather of energy efficiency, Arthur Rosenfeld.

“In keeping with the tradition among scientists of naming units in honor of the person most responsible for the discovery and widespread adoption of the underlying scientific principle in question,” a group of scientists proposed in a refereed article in Environmental Research Letters to define the Rosenfeld as electricity savings of 3 billion kwh per year, the amount needed to replace the annual generation of a 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant.

That definition, explains lead author Jonathan Koomey, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientist and consulting professor at Stanford University who was once a graduate student of Rosenfeld’s, is classic Rosenfeld.

“Power plants are what Art uses most often to explain to policy makers how much electricity can be saved by efficiency investments,” he said.

With a decades-long career in energy analysis and standards, Rosenfeld often is credited with being personally responsible for billions of dollars in energy savings. He started his career at the University of California, Berkeley and Berkeley Lab in the 1950s as a physicist in the Nobel Prize-winning particle physics group of Luis Alvarez. However, in 1974, he decided to switch his focus to energy and the environment. He founded the Center for Building Science at Berkeley Lab in 1975, where a broad range of energy efficiency standards and technologies were developed over the next 20 years.

Having just completed two five-year terms on the California Energy Commission, Rosenfeld will be returning to Berkeley Lab this spring to continue championing scientific solutions for society’s most urgent environmental problems.

“He recognized early on, earlier than anyone else I think, that really great gains will come from energy efficiency, that there’s an enormity to be gained by this approach,” said fellow physicist Richard Muller, who took a graduate course from Rosenfeld in 1965, then went on to work with him in Alvarez’ group.

Indeed, he already has a term named after him: The “Rosenfeld effect” explains why California’s per capita electricity usage has remained flat since the mid-1970s while U.S. usage has climbed steadily and is now 50-percent higher than it was 40 years ago. Low-emissivity “smart windows,” electronic ballasts that led to compact fluorescent lamps and energy standards for appliances and buildings were Berkeley Lab innovations that made the Rosenfeld effect possible. He also is behind “Rosenfeld’s Law,” which states that the amount of energy required to produce $1 of economic output has decreased by about 1 percent per year since 1845.

Published online, the paper proposing the Rosenfeld unit of measurement, titled “Defining a Standard Metric for Electricity Savings,” has 54 co-authors representing 26 institutions from around the world, including more than a dozen from Berkeley Lab.

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