While Rosenfeld, a nuclear physicist and California energy commissioner, started the movement that saved the state having to build many new electricity generating facilities, he's no longer the Lone Ranger.
For instance, the Manteca Unified School District reportedly shaved $2.2 million from its energy bill over 19 months through energy efficiency.
DTE Energy, which operates Detroit Edison, reported that its energy efficiency programs saved customers $31 million in 2010 with lifetime savings estimated to be about $520 million.
And 16 members of the American Chemistry Council saved enough BTUs through energy efficiency measures in 2010 to power all the homes in a city the size of Akron, Ohio, for one year.
To quote Donald Trump: "That's huge."
Energy efficiency operates through a simple premise: install devices that use less power to save energy and, more importantly, money. Another benefit is a reduced greenhouse gas footprint. But that benefit is more esoteric and generally lost on Joe Consumer, especially with fuel prices taking an extra share of his resources.
Many of the cities and counties we're working with at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization are doing the same thing. Although the only recognition they're likely to get is whatever I write in this post and others that follow.
One of them, the City of Delano recently purchased 250 ecostrips for employee work stations. These power strips enable workers to turn off various electronic devices when not in use to reduce what many in the business call "vampire" power. This siphons off electricity for unneeded functions.
According to my calculations, which show the average ecostrip can save about 12 percent of energy used, the savings for Delano can save about 36,180 kWh a year. Not bad for something that costs $24.95. The project is just the start, and the city has much more planned.
And Tulare County, which is gearing up to launch an $826,000 energy efficiency lighting upgrade of about 17 of its buildings, could rack up savings of about 900,000 kWh. And that's just by replacing light fixtures and bulbs.
In fact, SJVCEO's work with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which includes Tulare County and 35 other jurisdictions, amounts to potential savings of 5.5 million kWh. The savings on electricity bills and in CO2 should be noticeable.
When I started working for this organization about a year and a half ago, energy efficiency hardly seemed tangible. Sure, I knew about using less power. In fact, I had nothing but a swamp cooler in my home despite summer temperatures in the Valley pushing past 100 degrees 40 to 50 days a year. Evaporative coolers use a fraction of the power an AC unit does.
And I knew about turning off lights. My father, the light cop, also wouldn't turn on the furnace until the mud puddles outside started to freeze at night.
But my experience working with utility and state engineers on energy audits and my own research has shown what an important role energy efficiency can play on a national scale. Buildings use an estimated 80 percent of the nation's generated power.
Cut that by a third, and dividends come not only in reduced emissions but in national security. Less reliance on imported energy means less exposure to fluctuations in oil prices.
Extending that argument into renewable energy further bolsters the national security benefit while reducing pollution.
Some of the biggest drivers in this sector are institutions of higher learning.
For instance, universities in the Big 10 purchased 256.6 million kWh of green power in the 2010-2011 academic year, earning a first-place conference ranking in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's College and University Green Power Challenge. The University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League won for best individual college with 200.2 million kWh purchased.
Gazing into my imaginary crystal ball, I see energy efficiency gaining increased importance on all fronts. Yet, I also see people responding more favorably to renewable energy, especially as prices for alternatives drop. If solar does become economically favorable even without subsidies, the decentralized power generation system envisioned by Al Weinrub will become a game changer.
And I see the EPA's annual greenhouse gas inventory gaining importance. The recently released 16th annual report shows a 6.1 percent decline in overall emissions for 2009, largely due to a stalled economy.
Perhaps in a few years, that decline will be attributed to efficiencies and alternatives.
Photo: Pre energy efficiency at old Lathrop School. Courtesy Manteca Unified School District.