Visiting Scholar, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley
As we begin the new year, we find ourselves stepping into an exciting new chapter at PSE Healthy Energy. In 2023, we welcomed eleven (yes 11!) new staff members to our team. Their exceptional drive and expertise, paired with investments in state-of-the-art air quality research technology, open new possibilities in scientific inquiry and enhance our capacity for impact. It is also my great pleasure to introduce our new website, which we hope will help users access our growing body of research more easily. As we look ahead to 2024, PSE will continue building on our recent momentum within key research areas, including:
Our research on methane gained international attention in 2023, providing new insights on a range of hazardous air pollutants simultaneously emitted alongside methane throughout the oil and gas supply chain—from abandoned oil and gas wells to gas kitchen stoves. In 2023, PSE’s scientists traveled to Australia, the United Kingdom, and beyond to test the composition of distribution-grade natural gas. Building on this research, we are developing publicly-available interactive tools that will allow users to leverage our comprehensive gas composition database to assess potential safety and public health risks of methane emissions in real-time. Looking ahead, PSE will begin examining methane sources beyond oil and gas, beginning with our collaboration with the U.S. EPA and the University of California Berkeley to study climate and health-damaging emissions from landfills.
Since its founding, PSE has led scientific research that connects the dots between energy systems, public health, and climate change. This work paved the way for PSE to be awarded $1,350,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study local disparities in exposure to air pollution, heat, and humidity—as well as climate solutions—throughout California’s Contra Costa County. In 2023, we released the Candidate Resilience Hub Mapping Tool, which allows users to explore 18k potential solar+storage resilience hub locations across the state of California, as well as in-depth data on local populations and climate risks.
For more than a decade, PSE has provided in-depth regional analyses designed to maximize the public health and equity benefits of clean energy transitions. I am excited to share that we are now building on our recent research within Colorado and Maryland to launch a national energy affordability study. This project will provide public access to cutting-edge energy affordability models and generate regionally-relevant policy solutions to support equitable and affordable transitions to clean energy across the United States. We are also proud to have launched our Community Consulting Center in 2023, which has already delivered locally-relevant scientific research to 11 community based organizations across 10 states.
Carbon Management, Air Quality, and Human Health
As we broaden the scope of our existing research areas, we are excited to enter new scientific frontiers, particularly in the field of carbon management. In 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy funded a study co-led by Berkeley Lab to explore the creation of a direct air capture (DAC) facility in California’s Southern San Joaquin Valley. As part of this project, PSE will contribute to an environmental impact assessment that examines the environmental, health, and safety dimensions of the project’s direct air capture technology components that addresses questions from community members. In another direct air capture project, funded by the California Energy Commission, PSE will quantify health-relevant air pollutant emissions and evaluate potential co-benefits associated with Capture6’s Project Monarch facility. This work constitutes the first field-based assessment of air pollutant emissions from a DAC facility and fills a critical knowledge gap as these new technologies are sited across the globe.
As always, we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring science to energy policy. Our team made significant contributions to energy policy at every level in 2023, with notable mentions for our Director of Energy and Health Lee Ann Hill, who presented on the health impacts of methane emissions from the energy sector at COP 28; our Director of Research Elena Krieger who served on committees for the California Energy Commission and the National Academy of Sciences.
On behalf of the entire team at PSE, I want to express our deepest gratitude to our partners for their continued support of our work. We couldn’t have achieved all that we have without your trust and commitment. We hope you will join us in the journey for the coming year, as we strive to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge and drive science-based energy policy.
Wishing you a prosperous and impactful 2024!