Efficient energy should perhaps be accorded higher priority in the Indian context than generation – give the largely inefficient distribution systems and high costs of generation through renewable energy. That is why two people are our Newsmakers this month: Dr Arthur H. Rosenfeld of the US, who was awarded for his contribution to the development of the energy efficiency sector, and Dr Philipp Rutberg of Russia, who was recognised for developing plasma technology that can be used to create energy from waste materials. They were awarded the 2011 Global Energy Prize, which rewards innovation and solutions in global energy research and its concurrent environmental challenges. The Prize was given to the scientists recently by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in an official ceremony which took place as part of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Rosenfeld, 84, is a University of California-Berkeley physicist who served on the California Energy Commission for 10 years, and is best known for his groundbreaking work in energy efficiency. Motivated by the 1973 oil crisis, he switched his career focus from experimental nuclear and particle physics to energy efficiency. Together with colleagues at the Center for Building Science which he founded at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he proposed rigorous energy efficiency standards in California. His technological innovations include energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs and reflective roof-coatings which reduce air-conditioning costs. The 'Rosenfeld' (unit of energy conservation named after him) equals 3 billion kWh – the amount of energy savings needed to replace the output of one 500-MW coal-fired power plant in a year.
Rutberg is a Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Institute for Electrophysics and Electric Power in St Petersburg. Throughout his career he has worked to develop high power 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-providing a single solution to both garbage disposal and energy supply issues. Rutberg has repeatedly spoken out against the construction of landfills, and on the need to invest in science and innovation, particularly where it concerns the environment.