He's been at it for 40 years. Now the world is paying attention.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev presented Rosenfeld with the 2011 Global Energy Prize, which rewards innovation and solutions in global energy research and environmental challenges. The official ceremony took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Rosenfeld shared the $1 million prize with Professor Philipp Rutberg of Russia, who was recognized for his work developing energy plasma technologies which can convert waste materials into synthetic fuels, with minimal harmful emissions. Using this technology, a town of around 30,000 people could supply all its heating needs and a portion of its electricity needs using domestic waste as a power source.
"Arthur Rosenfeld embodies the spirit of the Global Energy Prize," said Igor Lobovsky, president of the Global Energy Prize Partnership.
Lobovsky called Rosenfeld the epitome of a socially and environmentally aware scientist and said his work has directly benefited humanity.
Those who know Rosenfeld, a nuclear physicist and California energy commissioner, say he's a modest guy who's great to work with. He's extremely practical about saving energy and a tireless advocate of energy efficiency. He was dubbed the Godfather of Green by KQED FM in San Francisco and told CBS News that the United States' descent into an unrepentant energy guzzler can be explained simply: "Energy in the U.S. is dirt cheap. And what's dirt cheap is treated like dirt."
He's a hoot to listen to and offers practical lessons that make more sense than most. Here's a link to a recent "Cool Cities Cool Planet" presentation. Here's a shorter piece from CBS from 2007.
The Global Energy Prize is considered one of the world's most respected awards in energy science. Rosenfeld received the prize in recognition of his pioneering energy efficiency work.
Rosenfeld helped establish energy efficiency standards for new homes, businesses and industrial buildings in California. According to a statement from the Global Energy folks, past U.S Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said in 2006 that Rosenfeld's legacy "yields an astounding annual savings of around $100 billion and growing."
In 2010, a new unit of energy conservation was named after Rosenfeld. The 'Rosenfeld' equals 3 billion kilowatt hours, or the energy savings needed to replace the output of one 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant in a year.
At the event, Rosenfeld said he was delighted. "The concept of energy efficiency has had a tremendous impact on the world, both economically and environmentally, and I remain excited about innovations, which will lead to even greater levels of energy savings."
He also repeated one of his catch phrases: "The cheapest form of energy is that which you don't use."
Photo: Art Rosenfeld on CBS News program Eye To Eye.