Career in Energy Efficiency

Dr. Arun Jhaveri ’64 MS is one of the nation’s leading energy advisors, having served in international, national and local leadership positions related to energy efficiency and climate change. This fall, his contributions to the field will be recognized with the prestigious induction into the Association of Energy Engineers Hall of Fame.

After completing a bachelor’s degree at Bombay University (now University of Mumbai), Dr. Jhaveri came to the United States in 1958 from India to study aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington. After completing the degree and working at Boeing for one year, he decided to continue his studies at UMass Amherst to pursue a master’s degree in physics.  Like most people during the 1960s, global energy use and carbon reduction was not in the forefront of his mind.

“My master’s thesis at UMass was more applied research rather than anything directly practical,” Dr. Jhaveri says of his work in the Hasbrouck Laboratory on the Amherst campus. “But I became interested in the hands-on and practical application of science and technology to solve problems locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.”

According to Dr. Jhaveri, the driving forces in his life have always been vision, integrity and passion, which have undoubtedly earned him his place in the Association of Energy Engineer’s Hall of Fame. Dr. Jhaveri was the first science and technology advisor to the city of Seattle and then went onto the national level with positions in the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Energy. He became the first mayor of the sustainable city of Burien, Washington, serving from 1992-1998.

The Bullitt Center, the greenest commercial
building in the world

Not so coincidentally, his vision for energy reduction as a forward-thinking method for cost reduction at the city, state and national levels, launched Dr. Jhaveri to the forefront of international discussions on climate change in the 1990s as environmental policy reached the global platform. “I’m an eternal optimist so I’m not dejected or frustrated by bureaucracy or lack of enthusiasm,” he says of the types of conversation that tend to occur around environmental policy. “My goal is to help not only educate but provide factual scientific facts and innovative technology.”

Optimism and clarity were exactly what the United Nations sought in its advisors at the Kyoto Protocol discussions in December 1997. “I was one of the few US delegates that participated in the discussions in Japan,” says Dr. Jhaveri. The Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty that sets binding obligations on industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“On the last day of the conference, where all the 150 countries were present, there was no agreement in sight. At the last minute, President Clinton sent Vice President Al Gore to Japan. Fortunately, the agreement was signed because of the vice president’s direct participation as a representative of the US and I was there when that happened.”

Although Dr. Jhaveri outlines key tactics for policymakers in his book Carbon Reduction: Policies, Strategies, and Technologies, his advice for the rest of us is remarkably simple. “If you reduce energy [use], you reduce the effects on the environment like climate change, but you also reduce your costs significantly. Community farming, growing local food, composting, making sure that we have bike paths and non-motorized transportation—things we used to do many, many years ago are now coming back because we’re taking a common sense approach, not only for climate change, but for the vitality of life.”