Safe, simple and cheap, energy efficiency is probably the best way to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. And octogenarian nuclear physicist, Arthur Rosenfeld, is the father of American energy efficiency. He retires this week from the California Energy Commission, a milestone commemorated in a great L.A. Times profile.
California homes are loaded with personal computers, widescreen TVs, iPods, PlayStations, air conditioners, massive refrigerators, hot tubs and swimming pool pumps. Despite that, Golden State residents today use about the same amount of electricity per capita that they did 30 years ago … New homes and buildings were required to be better insulated and fitted with energy-wise lighting, heating and cooling systems. Appliances had to be designed to use less power. Utilities were forced to motivate their customers to use less electricity.
The principle, Rosenfeld said, was simple: Conserving energy is cheaper and smarter than building power plants. Not surprisingly, those rules were attacked by business groups as bureaucratic job killers. Rosenfeld, who received his doctorate from the University of Chicago, was called unqualified by critics at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., one of California's largest utilities.
Yet these mandates have yielded about $30 billion annually in energy savings for California consumers. They've eliminated air pollution that's the equivalent of taking 100 million cars off the roads. They have been copied by states and countries worldwide. California's gains are so closely linked to Rosenfeld that they've been dubbed the Rosenfeld Effect in energy efficiency circles, where the 83-year-old has taken on rock star status.