News & Comment

  • Editorial |

    Policy should pay closer attention to the increasing body of research on the links between energy, climate and health.

  • News & Views |

    Li4Ti5O12 is a commonly used negative electrode material, but the origin of its fast rate capability has puzzled scientists for decades. Now, a facile Li-ion transport route featuring metastable intermediates is revealed to rationalize the fast-charging kinetics.

    • Swapna Ganapathy
    •  & Marnix Wagemaker
  • News & Views |

    The power conversion efficiency of solar cells sensitized with colloidal quantum dots is believed to be limited by surface defects. Research now finds that photocarriers trapped at shallow defect states can actually be recovered and ultimately contribute to device efficiency.

    • Iván Mora-Seró
  • News & Views |

    Photocatalytic conversion of methane to ethane suffers from low yields due to poor selectivity and quantum efficiency. Now, ethane is produced by a photochemical looping strategy using a nanocomposite of titanium dioxide, phosphotungstic acid and silver cations, with selectivity of 90% and quantum efficiency of 3.5% at 362 nm.

    • Fumiaki Amano
  • Comment |

    Energy plays a central role in responding to emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, from ensuring adequate healthcare services to supporting households during lockdowns. Protecting the renewable energy industry and its contribution to providing sustainable energy access for all must be an urgent priority in the current crisis.

    • Vanesa Castán Broto
    •  & Joshua Kirshner
  • Comment |

    Digital and physical games are now widely used to support learning and engagement, including in the domains of climate change and energy. We believe games have a further, underappreciated role: helping us as researchers to reflect on our own research, generating deeper understanding and, hopefully, more impactful research projects.

    • Michael J. Fell
    •  & Alexandra Schneiders
  • News & Views |

    Light-driven production of hydrogen by coupling natural photosystems or photosensitizers with hydrogen-producing catalysts has been achieved in numerous in vitro systems. Now, a recombinant in vivo system is described that generates hydrogen using a hydrogenase enzyme directly coupled to a cyanobacterial photosystem.

    • Oliver Lenz
  • Comment |

    The COVID-19 pandemic and associated changes in social and economic conditions may affect the prevalence of energy insecurity. Essential relief must be provided to the growing number of households that are energy insecure and protect them from even more dire circumstances caused by utility disconnections and unpaid energy bills.

    • Michelle Graff
    •  & Sanya Carley
  • Policy Brief |

    Retiring, transitioning or installing more stringent emissions controls in coal-fired power plants has the potential to decrease asthma attacks and asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations in nearby communities. These health co-benefits should be considered in policy and decision making about coal-fired power plant retirement or retrofit.

    • Joan A. Casey
    • , Jason G. Su
    • , Lucas R. F. Henneman
    • , Corwin Zigler
    • , Andreas M. Neophytou
    • , Ralph Catalano
    • , Rahul Gondalia
    • , Yu-Ting Chen
    • , Leanne Kaye
    • , Sarah S. Moyer
    • , Veronica Combs
    • , Grace Simrall
    • , Ted Smith
    • , James Sublett
    •  & Meredith A. Barrett
  • News & Views |

    Microsized battery anodes such as silicon offer cost advantages over nanosized counterparts but suffer from poor cycling stability. Now, an electrolyte design is reported to enable a LiF-rich solid–electrolyte interphase that stabilizes microsized silicon over a reasonably long cycle life.

    • Jiangyan Wang
    •  & Yi Cui
  • News & Views |

    Low-cost, efficient hydrogen production via water electrolysis is expected to be an important part of a future hydrogen economy. Towards this end, new polymers with high stability are demonstrated and paired with low-cost, earth-abundant metal catalysts in alkaline membrane electrolyzers.

    • William E. Mustain
    •  & Paul A. Kohl
  • News & Views |

    Hot carrier solar cells require mechanisms to dramatically reduce the rate at which carriers thermalize in semiconductors. Now, side-valley trapping of hot carriers with long decay lifetimes is shown to increase the chance of extraction of carriers while they are still hot.

    • Gavin Conibeer
  • Editorial |

    Recovery efforts in the wake of COVID-19 must invest in energy systems that will prove cleaner and more resilient in the face of future disasters.

  • Policy Brief |

    Mandatory building energy audits in New York City lead to a modest reduction of energy use of 2.5% and 4.9% for multifamily and office buildings, respectively. This suggests that other approaches besides mandatory audit policies, such as building energy grading and carbon intensity targets, may be needed to achieve sustainability goals.

    • Constantine E. Kontokosta
    • , Danielle Spiegel-Feld
    •  & Sokratis Papadopoulos
  • Editorial |

    Energy is consumed in social environments and in the presence of social peers. But social interactions do not just happen alongside energy behaviour — the two are intrinsically linked.

  • News & Views |

    In the face of more frequent long-duration power outages, utilities are looking to invest in more resilient infrastructure and solutions. A new study shows that residential customers are willing to pay for increased resilience and will spend extra to support their communities and low-income neighbours.

    • Kate Anderson
  • News & Views |

    Understanding the activity and stability of oxygen-evolving anodes is crucial for developing better water splitting electrolysers. Researchers now show the importance of interactions between iron and hydr(oxy)oxide hosts in dynamically-stable electrocatalysts that balance dissolution and deposition of iron present in the electrolyte.

    • Oscar Diaz-Morales
  • News & Views |

    All-solid-state lithium batteries typically suffer from low coulombic efficiencies and lithium dendrite growth at high current densities. Now, a silver–carbon composite anode is demonstrated that mitigates some of these problems, even for a prototype cell with a high energy density of over 900 Wh L–1.

    • Kun Joong Kim
    • , Jesse J. Hinricher
    •  & Jennifer L. M. Rupp
  • News & Views |

    In the intensive search for higher performance Li-ion cathode materials the spotlight is firmly fixed on Li-rich compounds. Now, a strategy utilizing a fluorinated, disordered LiMn2O4 spinel structure shows how ultra-fast Li-ion diffusion and high energy density can be achieved with Mn and O redox.

    • Robert A. House
    •  & Peter G. Bruce
  • Comment |

    The smart home technology industry promises energy savings and lifestyle improvements. However, there is little evidence that smart home technologies will reduce home energy use overall, and there are a range of emerging detrimental social impacts that require further attention from researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

    • Larissa Nicholls
    • , Yolande Strengers
    •  & Jathan Sadowski
  • Editorial |

    More frequent and graver extreme events continue to remind us of the perils of climate change, but systematic consideration of these extremes in energy systems studies and full accounting of their impacts remains a challenge.

  • Comment |

    Scenarios are the primary tool for examining how current decisions shape the future, but the future is affected as much by out-of-ordinary extremes as by generally expected trends. Energy modellers can study extremes both by incorporating them directly within models and by using complementary off-model analyses.

    • David L. McCollum
    • , Ajay Gambhir
    • , Joeri Rogelj
    •  & Charlie Wilson
  • Comment |

    Climate change entails an intensification of extreme weather events that can potentially trigger socioeconomic and energy system disruptions. As we approach 1 °C of global warming we should start learning from historical extremes and explicitly incorporate such events in integrated climate–economy and energy systems models.

    • Christian Otto
    • , Franziska Piontek
    • , Matthias Kalkuhl
    •  & Katja Frieler
  • Comment |

    The number of plaintiffs taking energy firms to court for ignoring climate-related risks is growing. By revealing how the sector is not prepared — and not preparing — for what is coming, their cases are pressing the energy sector to treat those risks as a cost of doing business.

    • Justin Gundlach
  • Policy Brief |

    Non-market effects, such as strategic decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, energy legislation and speculative bubbles, move crude oil prices away from the level implied by supply and demand for extended periods. These effects should be more proactively monitored and regulated to suit national and international objectives.

    • Robert. K. Kaufmann
    •  & Caitlin Connelly
  • Comment |

    Energy firms struggle to incorporate climate risks in their planning and public disclosures. This lack of information is increasing the chances that herd behaviour in finance could potentially lead to sudden disruptions in energy supply and exacerbate consequences of climate-related extreme events.

    • Amy Myers Jaffe
  • Comment |

    Anomalous seasons such as extremely cold winters or low-wind summers can seriously disrupt renewable energy productivity and reliability. Better seasonal forecasts providing more accurate information tailored to stakeholder needs can help the renewable energy industry prepare for such extremes.

    • Anton Orlov
    • , Jana Sillmann
    •  & Ilaria Vigo
  • Comment |

    Despite increased awareness among investors, physical climate risk from extreme weather remains surprisingly unaccounted for in financial markets. Without better knowledge of this risk, the average energy investor can only hope that the next extreme event will not trigger a sudden correction to the market values of energy firms.

    • Paul A. Griffin
  • Policy Brief |

    Community energy groups can raise citizen finance for renewable energy projects at lower interest rates than from commercial lenders, but they often depend on price guarantee schemes. Policies providing price stability and business model innovations are needed to realize the sector’s potential contribution to the zero-carbon energy transition.

    • Tim Braunholtz-Speight
    • , Maria Sharmina
    • , Edward Manderson
    • , Carly McLachlan
    • , Matthew Hannon
    • , Jeff Hardy
    •  & Sarah Mander
  • News & Views |

    If the UK leaves the European Union single market without a suitable trade deal, then electricity trade with its European Union partners could be disrupted. New research estimates the 2030 cost of a hard electricity Brexit to Britain at €300 million per year.

    • David M. Newbery
  • News & Views |

    Community energy projects may be pivotal in low-carbon transitions, yet little empirical evidence exists about their financing. Now, research sheds light on the financial mechanisms and performance of community energy projects in the UK.

    • Thomas Bauwens
  • News & Views |

    Perovskite solar cells with an inverted configuration hold great promise for multi-junction applications, but their power conversion efficiency is low. Now, a long-chain alkylamine ligand-assisted strategy has been demonstrated to enable an efficiency of 22.34%.

    • Rui Zhu
  • News & Views |

    Carbon capture typically relies on pressure or temperature swings for uptake and release of CO2. Researchers now present a device exploiting electrochemistry to drive these processes in an electro-swing approach that grants flexibility for coupling to intermittent energy resources and may have broad applications for carbon capture.

    • Jennifer Wilcox