Session Title: Sustainable Innovation in the Energy Sector (2)
Time: 4:45 – 5:15pm
Session Type: tba
Steven B. Young
Uncertainties to how technology is applied in products and how potential future products may be used affect the definition of functional unit and reference flow in life cycle assessments (LCAs) of emerging technologies (Cooper 2003; Pourzahedi et al. 2018). To that purpose, a more extensive and less conventional approach to interpretation stage of the LCA analysis may be mandated. Also, given practical limitations and opportunities to carry out the assessment of emerging technologies, the use of the attributional or the consequential approach in LCA might be more appropriate. The current study draws on insights from two case studies of LCA application to emerging technologies mainly on challenges and opportunities of the formulation of functional unit, and also the uses of attributional and consequential approaches given different levels of technological maturity of technologies.
Case 1 is an early(lab)-stage technology assessment of nickel-cobalt hydroxide battery electrodes (Glogic, Adán-Más, et al. 2019), and case 2 is a pilot-stage organic photovoltaic technology integrated in charger for mobile phone (Glogic, Weyand, et al. 2019). Approach and methods described in case 1 involve the use of attributional LCA and the interpretation is extended to investigate multiple possible functional set-ups to address uncertain electrochemical parameters of current density and lifetime at which prospective energy storage device could be used. Also, functions of capacity and lifetime are brought together in a single merged functional unit.
In case 2, the approach and methods used to assess photovoltaic chargers involve consequential LCA approach to estimate favorable application of the product as a substitute to local grid electricities in several countries in Europe. The results are interpreted using a break-even analysis to avoid assumptions of how frequently chargers would be used, which is a key consideration inherently uncertain for this emerging technology.
Relevant takeouts from the two case studies involve formulation of functional units and adaptation of methodology in interpretation phase to address emerging-nature challenges. Those are potentially viable contributions to existing efforts and practical barriers to application of LCA more widely in support of innovation and technology development (Smith et al. 2019). The perspective of attributional versus consequential LCA in view of technology readiness level is novel and can contribute to the ongoing and pervasive debate regarding the use of the two approaches.
Cooper, Joyce Smith. 2003. “Specifying Functional Units and Reference Flows for Comparable Alternatives.” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 8(6): 337.
Glogic, Edis, Alberto Adán-Más, et al. 2019. “Life Cycle Assessment of Emerging Ni–Co Hydroxide Charge Storage Electrodes: Impact of Graphene Oxide and Synthesis Route.” RSC Advances 9(33): 18853–62.
Glogic, Edis, Steffi Weyand, et al. 2019. “Life Cycle Assessment of Organic Photovoltaic Charger Use in Europe: The Role of Product Use Intensity and Irradiation.” Journal of Cleaner Production 233: 1088–96.
Pourzahedi, Leila et al. 2018. “Life Cycle Considerations of Nano-Enabled Agrochemicals: Are Today’s Tools up to the Task?” Environmental Science: Nano 5(5): 1057–69.
Smith, Lucy, Taofeeq Ibn‐Mohammed, Lenny Koh, and Ian M Reaney. 2019. “Life Cycle Assessment of Functional Materials and Devices: Opportunities, Challenges, and Current and Future Trends.” Journal of the American Ceramic Society.
Germany, since 1990, achieved significant GHG emission reductions in all industrial sectors – with one exception: transport emissions have decreased by less than one percent1. To meet the self-set reduction targets for 20302, a significant ramp-up of mitigation measures will be necessary. Biofuels, being technologically mature and compatible with current infrastructure, will likely contribute a major part. Fuels produced from microalgae in particular have been promoted due to the latter’s high area yield3. However, recent literature has highlighted the need for technological improvements before algae fuels can indeed become ecologically favorable over fossil fuels or land-based biofuel alternatives4–6. This is where the German research project Alpines AlgenKerosin (AAK) takes up.
In AAK, research partners Bauhaus Luftfahrt and Technical University of Munich were looking at new ways to produce truly sustainable fuel from microalgae. One of the studied technologies is precipitation of algae proteins as a valuable by-product, before residual biomass is converted into fuel. Our analysis shows that this technology might be a promising candidate to make algae fuel both ecologically and economically viable. The presentation at LCIC 2020 will focus on the technology model and the derived life cycle impact assessment.
We used engineering first-principles to establish mass- and energy balances for each process step. Upstream burdens are represented by ecoinvent v3.5 activities, system model Allocation at the Point of Substitution. By-products are treated by substitution. For impact assessment, GWP 100 is used as implemented in the International Life Cycle Data system (ILCD) version 2.0. Literature models on conventional diesel and biodiesel from soybeans (transesterification) are used as reference cases to assess the improvement over conventional and renewable fuel alternatives.
(1) Kerstine Appunn; Julian Wettengel. Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-climate-targets (accessed January 16, 2020).
(2) Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany. Climate Action Plan 2050, 2016.
(3) Chisti, Y. Biodiesel from microalgae. Biotechnology advances 2007, 25, 294–306.
(4) Reijnders, L. Lipid-based liquid biofuels from autotrophic microalgae: energetic and environmental performance. WENE 2013, 2, 73–85.
(5) Lardon, L.; Hélias, A.; Sialve, B.; Steyer, J.-P.; Bernard, O. Life-cycle assessment of biodiesel production from microalgae. Environmental science & technology 2009, 43, 6475–6481.
(6) Clarens, A. F.; Resurreccion, E. P.; White, M. A.; Colosi, L. M. Environmental life cycle comparison of algae to other bioenergy feedstocks. Environmental science & technology 2010, 44, 1813–1819.
Electric vehicles are promoted as future transport that have potential environmental and economic benefits in order to boost sustainable urban mobility. In many studies it is stated that switching from conventional to electric transport will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate climate change when integrating renewable energy sources (RES) into electricity production. Though it is yet unclear under what energy mix scenarios environmental and cost benefits will be the most significant. For this reason, the goal of the study is to assess and compare life cycle assessment (LCA) of electric (EV), hybrid (HEV), and internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) powered with petrol and diesel, from environmental and economic perspectives. Moreover, the LCA of EV was carried out under different electricity mix scenarios, that are forecasted for the years 2015–2050 in Lithuania. The results reveal that ICEV-petrol has the highest environmental damage (especially in resources). HEV and EV with electricity mix of 2015 has the same environmental damage, which is 14% less than ICEV-petrol. Next, comes ICEV-diesel with 10% less impact than HEV. Furthermore, EV with electricity mix 2020–2050 scenarios, which are composed mainly of renewable energy sources, have the least environmental damage. As a result, EV with electricity mix of 2050 has 43, 33 and 27% smaller environmental impact than ICEV-petrol, EV (electricity mix of 2015) and ICEV-diesel, respectively. From the economic perspective a life cycle cost analysis was carried out of the same vehicles in order to estimate and compare costs over the life cycle under Lithuanian conditions. The lifecycle cost analysis showed that electric and diesel cars are the most competitive ones, where the total consumer life cycle costs are approximately 5–15 % less than others. In addition, analyses both from manufacturer and consumer sides showed that EV is the most cost-efficient vehicle in operation stage.