Sustainable Energy & Fuels: 2022 and beyond

Garry Rumbles ab
aNational Renewable Energy Laboratory, Chemistry and Nanoscience Center, Golden, CO, USA
bUniversity of Colorado Boulder, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, Boulder, CO, USA. E-mail:

Welcome to the first issue of volume 6 of Sustainable Energy & Fuels (SEF). As the journal concludes its fifth volume since its launch in 2017, this marks my first full year as Editor-in-Chief after taking over the reins from James Durrant. As the inaugural Editor-in-Chief, James adeptly guided the journal through its early years to become one of the field’s key journals for transformational science and technology. Thank you, James.

Along with our agenda-setting parent journal, Energy & Environmental Science (EES), SEF is now joined by a new open-access journal, Energy Advances, creating a family of journals that provide a broad spectrum for energy-related research. The scientific research in SEF will continue to drive the development of sustainable energy technologies, with a particular emphasis on innovative concepts and approaches.

Much has happened in the energy arena since the first issue of SEF and, while this does not affect the type of research that is published, it does serve as a reminder of how this field is now finally starting to dramatically influence the world’s energy supply. Along with the dramatic increase in battery use in vehicles and grid-based storage, the field of photovoltaics has experienced quite a pronounced increase in cumulative installation. The year 2021 is projected to achieve almost 1 TW in installed cumulative capacity, an almost four-fold increase since the journal published its first issue in 2017. Such growth has now resulted in end-of-life issues and has drawn attention to the importance of sustainability in all renewable energy technologies.

At the laboratory level, the research performance of perovskite solar cells has seen a steady growth in efficiency over the past five years, while organic and quantum dot devices have both exhibited significant and noticeable improvements. These technology platforms are excellent examples of how chemistry is impacting the field of renewable energy research and the important role that SEF can play. Photovoltaics benefit from the regular tracking of solar harvesting performance and this is something from which many other energy harvesting and storage approaches might benefit. In addition to sustainability and end-of-life issues, there needs to be a focus on durability and, like performance, chemistry can help address these issues.

As the penetration of renewable energy resources increases and the importance of intermittency grows, the need for energy storage becomes paramount. Combining renewable electricity with electrolysis provides an excellent short-term engineering solution. But a grand challenge of the field remains the mimicking of photosynthesis. The harvesting of solar energy and storage into fuels, artificial synthesis, will continue to be a goal of the chemistry community.

The growth and implementation of renewable energy technologies, especially modern renewables, is very encouraging. However, the global energy needs have equally grown and it is sobering that CO2 emissions continue to rise while the percentage of energy consumption produced by renewable technologies has not changed in a decade. The challenge of increasing the contribution of renewable energy therefore remains as important now as it was a decade ago.

This list of opportunities is far from exhaustive but may provide examples and insights into where chemistry can play an important role. Developing renewable energy sources, providing storage options, and doing so without having a large negative environmental impact is essential for all.

I conclude this editorial by giving thanks to the Editorial Board, our colleagues in the editorial office at the Royal Society of Chemistry, and to the valuable input from the Advisory Board. And, especially, thanks to you, our readers, authors, and reviewers.

This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2022