PSE Science Summaries offer downloadable and printable summaries of the current state of knowledge for a variety of energy and environment issues, including climate change, air and water impacts, human health, and sustainability. All summaries are available free-of-charge.






Energy Storage Technologies and Grid Applications

Aug 2016


Energy storage can provide many benefits to the power sector. Batteries and other technologies can store solar energy during the day for use after sundown, or take on more complicated roles improving grid reliability and efficiency. Applications for storage can be found across the electric grid, from electricity generation through transmission and down to the household level. However, various barriers limit widespread storage deployment. Here we describe common energy storage technologies and applications, as well as challenges limiting widespread grid integration.



Climate Implications of Methane Losses from Modern Natural Gas and Petroleum Systems

Nov 2016


The climate implications of increased natural gas production and use, particularly substitution of coal by natural gas in the power sector has been hotly debated since 2011.Because natural gas combustion is associated with half the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of coal in the electric power sector, it is often assumed that a switch to natural gas power will result in lowered greenhouse gas emissions. However, this assumption does not account for methane emissions associated with producing natural gas and bringing that natural gas to market.The past several years have seen major changes both in our understanding of the importance of reducing methane emissions as a climate mitigation measure, and the significance of natural gas and petroleum systems as a source of atmospheric methane. Here, we review the current literature to provide the most up-to-date calculations for the climate impact and magnitude of methane emissions from modern natural gas and oil development.



Grid Resilience

Aug 2015

Natural disasters and extreme weather events can devastate the electric grid. Consideration of both current weather patterns and the changing climate is essential to increase the resilience of the electric grid, including both robustness during storms and quick recovery after outages. Here, we explore a suite of strategies and tools that can contribute substantially to grid resilience.

Smart Meters and Their Role in Creating a Flexible Electric Grid

May 2015


The transition to clean energy requires a change in how we use electricity, not just how we produce it. This change includes a shift in the time we use electricity, so that we can reduce our reliance on the polluting and expensive power plants typically used to meet peak daytime demand, as well as flexibility, so that we can better match our electricity use to variable electricity generation from sources like wind and solar. Smart meters (also Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI) are one of many tools that can enable us to manage the way we use electricity and better integrate renewable resources.


The Potential Impacts of Shale Gas and Oil Development on Children as a Vulnerable Population

Feb 2015

Many of the chemicals used and produced by shale gas and oil extraction processes are toxins with well-known health effects. Children and pregnant women exposed to these toxins and other associated social and biological stressors are especially vulnerable.


Running on Renewables: A review of 80% - 100% renewable electricity scenarios

Jun 2014


The transition from a power sector based on fossil fuels to one run primarily on renewable energy is a central component of many climate change mitigation strategies. This transition can also have environmental and public health benefits by reducing the total production and combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Many analyses in the literature have demonstrated that there are more than enough solar, wind and water resources to meet most or even all energy demand on a national or global scale. However, the integration of a high proportion, or "penetration," of renewables into the electric grid requires rethinking its structure to accommodate the variability and intermittency of solar and wind generation. Here, we compare technical studies that use real resource and demand data to model how renewables might meet power needs in different regions across the globe, both now and in 2050.



Surface and groundwater contamination associated with modern natural gas development: Peer-Reviewed Literature 2011-2014.

Oct 2014

Differences in local geologies and hydrologic characteristics, land-use histories, industry practices, and monitored water contaminants can complicate comparisons across studies. Baseline conditions for water quality are often unknown  or may have been affected by other activities. Nonetheless, empirical evidence of surface and groundwater contamination as a result of modern natural gas operations is documented.


Powering the Grid with Intermittent Renewables

Mar 2014


Many studies have demonstrated the technical feasibility of meeting the majority or even all electricity demand with renewable energy resources. However, renewable energy generators, such as wind turbines and solar photo-voltaics, introduce different grid management challenges than power generated with nuclear and fossil fuels. Currently, the grid currently must be sufficiently flexible to respond to unexpected fluctuations in energy demand. Using wind and solar based energy technologies, however, requires that the grid be flexible enough to respond to variability in energy supply because we cannot choose when they generate electricity.









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