The BIEE is sad to learn of the death of Dr Len Brookes at the age of 96. Dr Brookes was a long-time member of the BIEE and former Chief Economist of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), for whom the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate on energy efficiency was named.
Dr Brookes was born in Balham, South London on 15th May 1919, and educated at Emmanuel School in Clapham, before joining the Ministry of Transport in 1937. During the Second World War, he served as a flying instructor in the Royal Air Force. After the war Dr Brookes returned to the civil service and joined the UKAEA in 1960, transferring to their Economics and Programming Branch at Harwell in 1967 at the age of 48. At the same time as accepting the challenge of learning how to write computer programs, he was one of the first cohort to obtain a BSc in Maths from the Open University, which he followed with a doctorate. He later authored the OU’s course unit on energy. He retired from the UKAEA in 1979 having reached the position of Chief Economist, but continued working as a consultant for many years; he travelled widely attending seminars and conferences all over the world most often as invited speaker. His interest in economics never waned and he published his last paper in 2007 when he was 88.
Dr Brookes had a range of interests which included:
Working on electricity demand forecasting and analysing the role of nuclear power in electricity systems, presenting the public case for a substantial component of nuclear power in the UK electricity system a subject about which he wrote numerous papers and was joint author of the book The Economics of Nuclear Energy with Dr Homa Motamen (then of Imperial College).
Dr Brookes was also well known for his scepticism that CO2 emissions from man’s use of fossil fuels was the cause of climate change and submitted an invited paper on the subject to the 2005 study of the economics of climate change by the UK House of Lords Committee on Economic Affairs
But perhaps his most influential work was on the effects of energy efficiency, where he and Daniel Khazzoom separately rediscovered the Jevons Paradox, which was that increases in the efficiency with which energy is used to provide energy services could lead to such a large increase in the demand for those energy services that the demand for primary energy actually rises. Without their work, Jevons’ early writings on the growth in demand for coal after steam engines became more efficient might not have been rediscovered or popularised. Harry Saunders dubbed this idea the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, not knowing until too late that Dr Brookes had published his earliest contribution before Professor Khazzoom. The existence of what is also called the rebound effect (although Dr Brookes hated that term) is now generally acknowledged, and estimating its size is an active area of research. As a consequence of his work, in 2005 Dr Brookes at the age of 86 was invited by the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee to offer evidence to their study of energy efficiency
Dr Saunders became a good friend and wrote on hearing of his death: I first met Len a bazillion years ago at a conference in Cambridge [probably one of the IAEE International Conferences co-organised by the BIEE] where he was a keynote dinnertime speaker. He was funny, insightful, entertaining and engaging. Our paths crossed multiple times in later years. He was the first economist in the modern era to dare to suggest that conservation might not deliver what everyone supposed. He took a whole lot of flak for his ideas, but he was right. I’m so glad he hung in there; the profession owes him a great debt and his place is assured in the history of economics.
Dr Brookes died on April 2, 2016, leaving behind a huge and loving family – his wife Joyce (they were married for 73 years), his four children, nine grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
Richard Green (Chair, BIEE) with gratitude for the assistance of Jackie Jordan (née Brookes), who has provided a fuller obituary and Harry Saunders.