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Life cycle assessment of electricity delivery systems: Attributional and Consequential approaches

  • Author / Creator
    Mehedi, Tanveer Hassan
  • The transition towards low carbon electricity generation can be guided by investigating the economic and environmental consequences of policy decisions. However, there is limited information on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy footprints, and changes in production cost under different policy constraints for emerging sustainable energy generation systems. This thesis, therefore, explores the environmental and economic implications of transitioning to a low carbon electricity generation system through a life cycle approach. Large-scale solar power plants have captured the attention of energy policymakers and industrial stakeholders globally because they can contribute to the long-term plan to reduce the impacts of climate change related to conventional fossil fuel power plants. In this study, we developed a comprehensive bottom-up life cycle assessment model to evaluate the emissions and energy profiles of large-scale solar photovoltaic systems. A case study for a fossil fuel-based energy jurisdiction, Alberta, a western province in Canada, was conducted. We also investigated the potential to use such an energy system to provide consistent electricity supply to the grid compared to peak load options. The results show life cycle GHG emissions of 60.21-79.61 g CO2eq/kWh, a net energy ratio (total energy output divided by total fossil fuel consumed over the lifecycle) of 7.48-10.04, and an energy payback time (time required to regain the invested energy) of 2.73-3.00 years. The system was integrated with lithium-ion energy storage for a consistent electricity supply over a period. The corresponding results are 155.25-220.61 g CO2eq/kWh, an NER of 2.63-3.61, and a payback time of 7.01-9.45 years. More than 60% of the energy consumed is in upstream manufacturing processes. We also developed a novel framework to evaluate the long-term environmental consequences of marginal changes in electricity generation that result from policy decisions in fossil fuel-dominant jurisdictions. The framework integrates market penetration, long-term energy demand and supply modeling, and marginal cost and emissions analyses. A case study for Alberta was conducted. Based on the province’s specific energy generation resources and its policy initiatives, we created 9 scenarios investigate the effects of renewable energy penetration under competitive market conditions (no renewable targets), regulations to ensure minimum production from renewables, improved storage capabilities, and GHG emission targets. With the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) framework, we developed an energy generation model to calculate probable future electricity mixes, generation costs, and the resulting GHG emissions. The marginal changes in energy generation and GHG emissions were quantified for each scenario to incorporate different policy decisions and market effects. We determined that in Alberta combined cycle power plants and wind energy are the key marginal suppliers of electricity in the transition to a cleaner grid. The effects of adding energy storage to the grid along with renewable energy systems, replacing natural gas with renewable energy, and setting more aggressive GHG emission reduction targets than current policies require were also investigated. The information provided in this thesis would help concerned entities in formulating policies and making investments in the electricity sector.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-9vvr-7c20
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.