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Richter Chairs Energy Efficiency Study

Burton Richter made his name in high-energy physics—he won the Nobel Prize for discovering a particle made up of a new kind of quark, and directed SLAC for 15 years. For the past decade, he's turned his formidable attention to energy issues of a different, but no less important, nature.

Richter is now chairing a new study group on energy efficiency formed by the American Physical Society (APS). The group's goal is to identify research efforts and policy changes that will reduce carbon emissions linked to global warming and increase energy security.

Members of the group are gathering at SLAC today and tomorrow (October 29 through 30) to kickoff their work, which will focus on energy efficiency in buildings and transportation. Those two areas account for 70 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.

"First on everyone's list, whether you're concerned about global warming or energy supply security, should be conservation and efficiency," Richter said.

The group will look at three time frames, starting with technologies that are currently available but might require slight adaptations and changes in policy or regulation to be successfully put into use in the next 4 to 5 years. For the medium term, 8 to 10 years, the group will look at upcoming technologies that still require applied research and development. For example, LED (light-emitting diode) lights are currently as efficient as compact fluorescent light bulbs, but they hold potential for wringing far more light out of the same amount of electricity. For longer time frames, the group will apply its expertise and creativity to recommend where to send more research money to create energy efficiency dividends down the road.

The group includes scientists, policy experts and an economist in order to both determine promising technologies as well as the steps needed to put those technologies into general use.

"In the next 20 years, the greatest opportunity to make changes in the energy arena is implementing energy efficiency," said Mike Lubell, study group liaison and APS director of public affairs.

Heather Rock Woods, SLAC Today, October 29, 2007

Above image: Burt Richter