Before joining UCL, Melissa was an energy analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France where she was the lead author on the IEA’s energy storage technology roadmap. Prior to joining the IEA, she was a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy and an Engineering Research Associate with the Webber Energy Group at The University of Texas at Austin.
Melissa specializes in technology, economic, and policy analysis, in particular related to power grids and energy system efficiency optimization. She has worked as an engineer and consultant in energy systems for more than 8 years. Melissa has also worked on U.S. federal-level energy policy initiatives at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and on state-level activities in Texas and California.
An active writer and public speaker, Melissa is the primary author of several technical articles, reports, and white papers as well as hundreds of popular media articles on topics related to energy and the environment. She is currently a writer for Scientific American’s blog, “Plugged In.” Melissa also serves as an advisor for Alstom’s International Science and Technology Committee. In 2013 Forbes Magazine named her as a “30 under 30 in Energy”. She holds two masters degrees – in Mechanical Engineering and Public Affairs – from The University of Texas at Austin in addition to a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering from the University of California, Davis.
The Intersection of Energy Systems and Public Health
With regards to the energy system, multiple air pollutants are often produced by the same technologies (e.g. fossil fuel power plants, gasoline and diesel vehicles). Therefore, one can surmise that actions to reduce a subset of these emissions could have impacts on other pollutants. The question is “by how much?” and, furthermore, “in what cases is the opposite true?” (i.e. when can action to reduce local air pollution problems exacerbate global challenges?).
Melissa’s research centers on the development of tools that can quantify and contextualize the co-impacts of air pollution emitted by energy systems in urban environments. The aim of her work is to improve our understanding of how action to address local air pollution problems can impact both public health and progress toward mitigating global air pollution challenges. For example, how far could technology transitions to reduce urban air pollution also mitigate global climate change via reductions in greenhouse gas emissions?
Melissa’s research and bridges the gaps between energy system, air pollution, and public health models. She uses air pollution trends to measure existing gaps between today’s emissions levels and sustainable ones using the Sustainability Gap (SGAP) methodology. Furthermore, Melissa develops future scenarios to establish the degree to which addressing local air pollution challenges could potentially mitigate longer-term global climate change using a suite of soft-linked modeling tools.
Melissa’s work strives to answer a suite of questions, including:
1. What minimum indicator (basis) set is needed to adequately track and predict progress toward, or away from, sustainable air emissions levels in urban environments?
2. What are the air pollution co-impacts of energy technology transitions in urban areas?
3. How does accounting for air pollution co-impacts in a detailed transport sector model impact cost-optimized technology transition pathways?
4. To what extent do reductions in local air pollutants also contribute to national greenhouse gas emissions reductions?
Melissa’s research will add to the analytical definition of the components required to measure the co-benefits of energy system transitions on public health. It will also complement other work being completed in the UCL ISR on related to water, land, ecosystem, and natural resource consumption sustainability. The greatest potential contribution will likely be found in the creation of accessible, scientifically-based metrics and analyses that can be used for policy planning and validation.