Lee Schipper, dedicated to energy efficiency and environment, dies at 64

Leon “Lee” J. Schipper, a senior research engineer at Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center who devoted his career to transport, energy efficiency and the environment, has died after a struggle with pancreatic cancer. Schipper, who died on Aug. 16 at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, was 64.

Leon “Lee” J. Schipper

At Stanford, Schipper developed research and policy studies on efficient energy use in transportation systems. He simultaneously worked as a senior project scientist at the University of California-Berkeley’s Global Metropolitan Studies. Schipper co-founded EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport, in 2002 and remained with the center as a senior associate emeritus.

“Lee developed and taught a great course in sustainable transportation, organized a transport research seminar, mentored and inspired students – including helping several to produce their first published papers – analyzed the move toward electro-mobility, raised funds, promoted PEEC worldwide and generally created a locus of transport/energy excitement,” said James Sweeney, director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center. “I miss him as a colleague, especially his crashing through my door to share some new insight or question.”

Born and raised in Southern California, Schipper in 1968 earned his bachelor’s degree in physics and music from UC-Berkeley, where he also earned his doctorate in astrophysics. He was a Fulbright scholar at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics in Stockholm. He worked at Shell International Petroleum Co., and was a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for two decades. Schipper worked at the International Energy Agency in Paris as a visiting scientist from 1995 to 2001. He was a guest researcher at the World Bank, VVS Tekniska Foerening, the OECD Development Center and the Stockholm Environment Institute. He joined the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center in 2008.

“Lee was amazingly good at communicating the potential of energy efficiency to save energy, money and the environment. He also made learning about energy efficiency fun for both policymakers and the public,” said John Weyant, deputy director of PEEC, who first met Schipper in 1974. “His inspirational teaching style and effervescent personality made him a truly master communicator.”

Schipper authored more than 100 technical papers and a number of books on energy economics and transportation around the world, including Energy Efficiency and Human Activity: Past Trends, Future Prospects (1992) with Stephen Meyers, Richard Howarth and Ruth Steiner. He served on the editorial boards of five major journals. He was a member of the Swedish Board for Transportation and Communications Research for four years and a member of the U.S. Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Sustainable Transport and Committee on Developing Countries.

Outside of work, Schipper had a passion for jazz and played the vibraphone as lead of the quintet Lee Schipper and the Mitigators. In 1973, he recorded an album titled The Phunky Physicist. With his wife, Agneta, he owned two enormous Maine coon cats, Ophelia and Two-Paws.

Schipper’s daughter, Lisa, works on adaptation to climate change at the Stockholm Environment Institute. After living 13 years in Asia and Europe, she recently moved back to Berkeley, where she lives with her husband, Markus Staas.

In addition to Agneta, Lisa and Staas, Schipper is survived by his daughter Julia and son-in-law Ramon Munoz-Raskin of Washington, D.C., and a sister, Amy Schipper-Howe of Boise, Idaho.