Life Cycle Analysis: Some science and energy policy issues



Friday, September 30, 2005, 3:30 PM

Room 833 SWM Building

Dr. Vasilis Fthenakis

Senior Chemical Engineer and Scientist, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Adj. Professor Earth & Env. Eng., Columbia University



Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a framework for quantifying the potential environmental impacts of material and energy inputs and outputs of a product or technology from cradle to grave. Common Metrics include: Energy Payback Times (EPBT), Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), Toxic Gas Emissions, Ecological Risk and Resource Availability and Sustainability indexes.

Prof. Fthenakis heads the National Photovoltaic (PV) Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Research Center at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is going to talk about the use of LCA for evaluating PV systems and comparing them with other power generation technologies. He will also offer some ideas on the use of LCA for evaluating hydrogen production and storage scenarios.

LCA is the first step in quantifying the external costs (environmental & social) of energy technologies. In the European Commission, LCA has a key-role in providing policy-makers with a substantiated scientific input to assess energy policy decisions including a renewable electricity target, an energy tax, and a state aid exception for clean energies.

Based on established market dynamics and environmental policy trends, Fthenakis expects that in the near-future LCA could also play an increasingly important role on guiding energy policy and infrastructure decisions in the U.S.