The 1970s were a decade of great expansion. Nationally, a host of new environmental laws had just been passed to protect the nation's air, water, and land. At Berkeley Lab, an environmental focus takes shape as well when then-director Edwin McMillan establishes the Environmental Program and the first environmental funding arrives for what would someday become the Energy Technologies Area.

Women's contributions became more visible: Barbara West became administrator for the Energy and Environment division; Nancy Brown was hired to the combustion group; and Helen Michel co-led research that revealed the famed Plate of Brass was a hoax. The 1970s were further defined by the oil crisis of 1973, which inspired Art Rosenfeld and other researchers in the Lab's Physics Division to take a critical look at energy efficiency and develop it into a credible scientific discipline.

1970 - Environmental Program started

Director Edwin McMillan.jpgIn 1970, Director Edwin McMillan founds the Environmental Program, with continued exploration of how Berkeley Lab can best assist with the "environmental problem." 

February 4 - Second meeting on the environmental problem

Informal meeting on the possible role of Berkeley Lab in studying the environmental problem. The meeting included about 40 attendees, including Edwin McMillan, Andy Sessler, Jack Hollander, Will Siri and Art Rosenfeld.    


February 5 - Ideas for environmental projects are proposed1970 Yellow Book Program For Environmental Research

Ideas for environmental projects start flowing in to Sessler.

September - "Yellow book" lays out a program for the Lab and on campus

December 18 - Environmental Research Program launched

Memorandum_E.M.McMillianEnvironmental Research Program is started by Director McMillan, led by Sessler and Hollander.

End of year - Lab is eligible for National Science Foundation funding.

The National Science Foundation launches the RANN (Research Applied to National Needs) program, for which U.S. DOE labs are eligible.



1970s - Windows Research Begins

The building energy-efficiency team realizes a huge amount of energy is being lost through inefficient windows. With U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding, researchers partner with industry to develop today’s energy-efficient windows, ultimately saving billions of dollars in energy costs worldwide

1971 - First funding

In 1971, the Lab is renamed Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

June - First outside funding arrives

The Environmental Research Program's project, a survey of instrumentation for environmental monitoring, is funded by the National Science Foundation—RANN program. Principals include Bob Budnitz (pictured at left), Craig Hollowell (pictured at right), Dick Mack, and Nabil Amer.

Bob BudnitzCraig Hollowell

Throughout 1971 - University of California separates Berkeley and Livermore

University of California renames the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory sites as Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and begins the process of administratively separating the (now) two labs.

October 28 - California faces the energy crisis

Speech by California Lt. Governor Edwin Reinecke includes the energy crisis as one of many problems science can address.


1972 - Energy joins environment

In 1972, the "energy" research area joins the environmental focus at Berkeley Lab.

April 14 - Atomic Energy Commission chairman gives memorable speech

AEC document imageChairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, James Schlesinger, gives a speech about the energy situation that has stood the test of time.

May 2 - Energy and Environment Program established

McMillan changes name of what will someday be the Energy Technologies Area to Energy and Environment Programs and appoints Hollander as assistant (Lab) director for the programs.

McMillan memo excerpt

June 16 - Seaborg argues for U.S. Energy Agency

Glenn Seaborg publishes an editorial in Science magazine with the title "For a U.S. Energy Agency." He describes the then-situation with respect to energy—not that different from today—and proposes that the Atomic Energy Commission be transformed into the U.S. Energy Agency.

Seaborg editorial excerpt

July 28 - Letter to Energy and Survival Program

Letter from Senator John Tunney (D, CA) to "Dr. Jack Hollander, Assistant Director Energy and Survival Program, Radiation Lab, UCB."  Tunney sees a coming mismatch between supply and demand, and he calls for a national energy policy.


Hollander was the assistant (Lab) director for Energy and Environment Programs.  Although "survival" (of the program) is not that far off.

August 15 - "Modifying demand" is mentioned

"Elements of a National Energy Policy" by Hollander and John Harte includes a section on modifying the demand for energy.

November 7 - Richard Nixon elected to second presidential term

That year - Origins of the Solar Energy Program

During 1972, Mike Wahlig, formerly in the University of California's Physics Division, works towards developing a Solar Energy Program and recruits the Physics Division's Don Grether to help.

Atmospheric Aerosol Research Group Created

Tihomir (Tica) Novakov creates the Atmospheric Aerosol Research Group and inspires the now-mainstream field of research on carbonaceous aerosols. The group conducts groundbreaking research on heterogeneous atmospheric reactions, the importance of carbonaceous aerosols as cloud condensation nuclei, and the optical properties and climate implications of sunlight absorbing black and organic carbon.

1973 - Electrochemical Systems Foundation

Researchers lay out a theoretical foundation for engineering design of electrochemical systems, including electrical energy storage, clarifying the physicochemical laws that govern the behavior of electrochemical systems and demonstrate how to use these laws to correctly formulate and solve problems associated with batteries, fuel cells, electrolyzers, and related technologies.

1973 - Energy and Environment Division

In 1973, Andy Sessler became Berkeley Lab’s third director just two weeks after the start of the 1973 oil embargo, when gas prices soared and lines at gas stations snaked for several blocks. The energy crisis had begun. On his first day in office, November 1, 1973, and with the support of the rapidly expanding growth of federal support for energy technology research and development, he established the Energy and Environment Division.

March - Manhattan Project proposed for energy

Key senators propose a massive "Manhattan Project" for energy research and development. It never happened.

Manhattan Project document excerpt

September - Sessler to become Berkeley Lab director

Director McMillan announces that Andy Sessler will become the Lab director November 1.

McMillan memo excerpt

September 24 - Sessler outlines challenges

Sessler sends a memo to "The Staff of the Lab" reviewing the Lab's past successes and pointing to challenges that lie ahead.

Sessler memo excerpt

October 6 - First energy crisis

Egypt and Syria attack Israel during Yom Kippur, which leads to the oil embargo and the first energy crisis.

November 1 - Energy and Environment Division established

Newly appointed Lab Director Andy Sessler establishes the Energy and Environment Division and appoints Jack Hollander as division head.

November 7 - Project Independence announced

President Nixon announces Project Independence, recalling the Manhattan Project, with a goal to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 1980.

December 17 - Near-term crisis  

The price of a barrel of oil has gone from $2/barrel to $6/barrel. Prepared by Sessler for Senator Alan Cranston.

Near-term crisis memo excerpt

Throughout 1973 - Fusion and geothermal programs move to Energy and Environment

Ongoing controlled fusion effort transferred to Energy and Environment Division.

Paul Witherspoon starts geothermal program in the Energy and Environment Division, which later led to the Earth Sciences Division. 

1974 - Energy Efficient Buildings Program

Rosenfeld establishes the Energy Efficient Buildings Program at Berkeley Lab, and technologies like fluorescent lighting, energy-efficient windows, and energy simulation tools enable widespread energy efficiency in buildings.

1974 - Solar and energy efficiency

In 1974,  the Atomic Energy Commission comes to an end, as such. American Physical Society summer study introduces the concept of energy "efficiency."

February - Solar Program projects

A chart of projects in the solar program at Berkeley Lab, 1974

Pictured above: Projects in the Solar Program. More than 40 years later, the world is still working on many of the same technologies.

February 1 - Berkeley Lab's organizational chart

Click the image below to download the full chart.

Berkeley Lab organizational chart 1974

March - Energy and Environment Division helps BART

Energy and Environment Division under contract with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to help with braking systems, motor performance, automatic control equipment, and general troubleshooting.

Spring 1974 - First solar funding

The first solar funding: The Circumsolar Telescope Project. Funding is from the National Science Foundation—RANN program. Don Grether transfers from Physics to the Energy and Environment Division.

Summer 1974 - Summer study on efficient use of energy

The American Physical Society holds summer study at Princeton on "Efficient Use of Energy: A Physics Perspective." Art Rosenfeld and Sam Berman (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) help organize.  

October - Atomic Energy Commission abolished

Atomic Energy Commission is abolished, giving way to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Research and Development Administration.

End of Year - First Energy and Environment Annual Report

The first Annual Report was organized by Environmental Science; Solar Energy Research and Development; Instrumentation and Measurement; New Technology and Spin-off Research; Fossil Energy Research and Development; Geothermal Energy and the Geosciences; and Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion Research. Carl Blumstein is the editor. 

1975 - Energy analysis and buildings

In 1975, energy analysis and buildings become a focus for Berkeley Lab.

Early in 1975 - Will Siri starts Energy Analysis Program

Will Siri joins Energy and Environment as the Leader of the Energy Analysis Program.

That year - Rosenfeld and Berman move to Energy and Environment

Rosenfeld moves from the Physics Division to Energy and Environment. Berman leaves Stanford for Berkeley Lab/Energy and Environment. Together they form the Energy Efficient Buildings Program.

Berkeley Summer Study attracts experts from around the country to engage with UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab staff to formulate/prioritize needs/opportunities related to energy. Upon conclusion, Berkeley Lab was asked to to submit a proposal for follow-on work, which led to new funding in early 1976.  A “Proceedings” (14 papers) of the Berkeley Summer Study was published in the inaugural issue of the new journal Energy and Buildings, Vol 1, Issue 1 in May 1977.

Fall - Hollander steps down as Energy and Environment Head

Hollander steps down to lead a major National Academy of Science study: Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems. Bob Budnitz is appointed acting head, Mel Simmons acting deputy head. The Energy and Environment office is located on the 4th floor of Building 50A.

End of year - Annual Report includes indoor air quality

Annual report includes first article concerning indoor air quality: "Combustion-Generated Indoor Air Pollution" by Craig Hollowell, Bob Budnitz, George Case, and Greg Traynor.

1976 - U.S. Bicentennial and the Carter era

In 1976, the United States celebrates its bicentennial, and the Carter era begins.

July 12 - Steve Selkowitz is hired for windows research and development

Steve Selkowitz, who had first engaged with Rosenfeld/Berman in the 1975 Summer Study and
helped write the followup proposal for additional funding, is hired to lead the advanced window development
effort, while Sam Berman focuses on advanced lighting. Rosenfeld develops Two-zone,
which becomes Cal-ERDA and then DOE-2 building energy simulation model.

That year - Barbara West is appointed Energy and Environment administrator

September - Nancy Brown is hired into combustion group

November - Jimmy Carter elected president

End of Year - Annual Report has articles on new areas

The Annual Report has first articles on buildings, combustion, and energy analysis. The division's staff numbers 180, not including graduate students. 

1977 - Growth in energy research and development

The year 1977 was an era of even more growth in energy technology research and development. That year also heralded the advent of the U.S. Department of Energy and the downsizing of the Energy and Environment Division.

February (about) - Mel Simmons leaves

Mel Simmons takes a leave of absence to work on energy policy at the Solar Energy Research Institute (now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and never returns.

April - Energy declared moral equivalent of war

President Carter declares that the energy effort is the "moral equivalent of war" and launches a large program "to give us energy security," including the solar demonstration program and the Synfuels Corporation.

May - Energy modes: complacency and panic

With respect to energy, "We have only two modes: complacency and panic," James Schlesinger said in The New York Times.

August - U.S. Department of Energy established

President Carter establishes the U.S. Department of Energy, which takes over the responsibilities of Energy Research and Development Administration and other energy-related federal agencies.

Summer - Symposium on Carter's energy policy

Energy and Environment and University of California-Berkeley Energy and Resources Group hold a symposium on "First Impressions of Carter's Energy Policies."

August - Schlesinger becomes first U.S. secretary of energy

Fall - Plate of Brass is a hoax

Energy and Environment's Frank Asaro and Helen Michel use Neutron Activation Analysis to prove that the plate of brass supposedly left at Point Reyes by Sir Francis Drake is a hoax.

That year - Hollander returns, but to campus

Jack Hollander returns to Berkeley, but to U.C.-Berkeley (not Berkeley Lab), and founds the University-wide Energy Research Group, which later became the University of California Energy Institute.

That year - Energy and Environment is downsized

The Earth Sciences Division split off from Energy and Environment. Fusion goes to the Accelerator Division, which is renamed the Accelerator and Fusion Research Division. The BART project goes to Engineering.

December - Mark Levine joins Energy Analysis

Mark Levine is hired to join the Energy Analysis Program.

That Year - First external review of Energy and Environment

The first Lab Director's review of the Division. Paul Craig was the chair, and committee members included John Holdren, William Brobeck, C. Judson King, and Chang Tien.

End of Year - Programs in the Energy and Environment Division

The division has been downsized from nine to five programs: Chemical Process Research and Development, Energy Analysis, Energy Efficient Buildings, and Solar Energy. Staff decreases from 180 to 120.

1978 - Bob Budnitz leaves, Elton Cairns arrives

In 1978, Energy and Environment welcomes Elton Cairns as head of the division.  

First Windows Testing Facility

The Windows and Daylighting Group builds it first window testing facility in
Wurster Hall on campus, home of the UC Department of Architecture, to encourage more
interaction between the architectural professional and the growing building science group at
Berkeley Lab. Eventually, the thermal test facility was moved up the Hill to Berkeley Lab. An “artificial sky” 
24’ diameter domed structure was built and operated until xx for daylighting research and
design studies. The building was eventually dismantled.

January - Jim McMahon hired into Energy Analysis

Spring - The Department of Energy funds Appropriate Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy funds Energy and Environment (Charlie Case) to support Appropriate Energy Technologies in Arizona, Nevada, and Pacific Territories (islands). California and Hawaii were handled by other institutions. The largest grant was $49,000 for an "Agua-Power Barge." The smallest was $328.00 for a solar beeswax melter.  

Summer - Budnitz leaves Berkeley Lab

Bob Budnitz leaves Berkeley Lab for the Nuclear Regulation Commission to work on nuclear safety. Sam Berman is appointed acting division head.

Bob Budnitz farewell party: Budnitz holds a plaque as Craig Hollowell shakes his hand.July - Budnitz farewell party

Farewell party for Budnitz. In the photo at left, Budnitz is holding a plaque, and Craig Hollowell is shaking his hand.  

That year - Much of Energy and Environment moves to Building 90

The Division Office and much of the Division's staff move from the 50 complex to Building 90.

Fall - Elton Cairns is division head

Elton Cairns arrives as Energy and Environment division head following a national search.

1979 - Otto is appointed assistant division director

August 24 - Charles Duncan appointed secretary of energy

That year - Roland (Rollie) Otto is appointed assistant division director