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UC Berkeley Press Release

Bush honors Arthur Rosenfeld with Fermi Award

– Arthur H. Rosenfeld, University of California, Berkeley, professor emeritus of physics and a California energy commissioner, was named winner of the Enrico Fermi Award today (Thursday, April 27) by President Bush, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Arthur H. Rosenfeld
Arthur H. Rosenfeld (Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy)

The Fermi award is the government's oldest award for scientific achievement and comes with an honorarium of $375,000 and a gold medal. Administered by DOE on behalf of the White House, the award is named for late Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi, leader of the group of scientists who, on Dec. 2, 1942, achieved the first self-sustained, controlled nuclear reaction. Rosenfeld, formerly a staff scientist at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), was Fermi's last graduate student at the University of Chicago.

The award comes on the eve of a day-long symposium honoring Rosenfeld, who turns 80 on June 22, for his pioneering work in energy efficient building design. "The Rosenfeld Effect," the April 28 symposium, is drawing scientists from across the country, including Joseph Romm, former acting assistant U.S. Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. From 1994 to 1999, Rosenfeld was senior advisor to Romm.

Rosenfeld receives the Fermi award in recognition of a career of scientific discoveries in particle physics as well as pioneering innovations for the efficient use of energy.

"Dr. Rosenfeld's career provides an example of the breadth of science - from the fundamental to the practical - that the Department of Energy supports," U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. "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."

Rosenfeld has been a commissioner at the California Energy Commission since 2000, where he now serves as chairman of the Research and Development Committee and as the second member of the Energy Efficiency Committee.

Rosenfeld received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1954. In 1955, he joined the physics group led by Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez at UC Berkeley. During the next 18 years, he was a key developer of bubble chamber physics, particularly the hardware and software for photographing, measuring and analyzing data.

In 1973, when OPEC embargoed oil sales to the West, Rosenfeld redirected his career. He recognized the potential for energy savings in the building sector, which uses one-third of U.S. primary energy and two-thirds of our electricity. In 1975, he founded a program which grew into the Center for Building Science at LBNL. There he brought together a multi-disciplinary group of researchers with basic science backgrounds.

The center developed a broad range of energy efficiency technologies, including electronic ballasts for fluorescent lighting, a key component of compact fluorescent lamps; and low-emissivity windows, a coating for glass that allows light in, but blocks heat from either entering in the summer or escaping in the winter. Rosenfeld was personally responsible for developing DOE-2, a computer program for building energy analysis and design that was incorporated into California's Building Code in 1978. These codes have served as models for the nation, copied by Florida and Massachusetts, and other states are beginning to adopt them as well. DOE-2 is used to calculate codes and guidelines for energy efficient new buildings in China and in many other countries.

The U.S. National Research Council (NRC) has estimated that energy efficiency improvements developed solely at DOE's national laboratories saved the United States $30 billion between 1978 and 2000, with electronic ballasts contributing $15 billion and low-emissivity windows contributing $8 billion - a combined three-fourths of the total savings. The NRC also acknowledged the contributions of DOE-2, then used in an estimated 15 percent of all commercial construction in the United States, which has yielded average energy savings of 22 percent, compared to designs made without this program.

Since joining the California Energy Commission in 2000, Rosenfeld has been implementing the demand-side technology and incentives he advocated during the previous 30 years. For example, working with the California Public Utilities Commission, he has instituted time-dependent prices for electricity, that is, prices which are lower most of the time but higher at peak times, and "smart meters" to record electric use hour-by-hour. Rosenfeld has also championed utilities' funding and creative use of rebates to encourage purchase of efficient products.

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

Among the first recipients of the Fermi Award, which dates to 1956, were UC Berkeley physicists Ernest O. Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer, as well as Edward Teller, John von Neumann and Hans Bethe. The award was given most recently in 2003 to the late John N. Bahcall and to Raymond Davis Jr. and Seymour Sack.