In its fight against climate change, the EU is committed to reducing GHG emissions by 80-95%. Renewables (RES) have to play a key role in this decarbonisation journey. The share of renewable energy rises substantially in all scenarios foreseen by the EC, achieving at least 55% in gross final energy consumption in 2050. SuReTool project aims to develop a methodology with a life cycle approach to check the actual RES sustainability according to economic, social, and environmental aspects. The main outcomes of the project will be the development of environmental and social indicators to check RES sustainability that will be integrated into a decision-tool to help policymakers to adopt the best alternative. The donor partner, Institute for Energy Technology, is a reference in energy systems analysis and modelling. This collaboration will result in mutual benefit as both groups will increase their skills in complementary fields. The new tool developed will also be available to both institutions for use in new investigations.
Summary of project results
Future implementation of both conventional and renewable energy technologies will inevitably result in a substantial increment of the number of plants and facilities deployed. Research into the social implications, the environmental performance and the economic balance of this step-change in technology deployment is required to ensure that the evolving energy system is actually sustainable. Within SureTool project, partners proceeded with the following work plan: 1) definition of the systems: establishment of boundaries and selection of assessment methods; they defined the systems and studied singular features of energy modelling for coupling with lifecycle approaches; 2) elaboration of data inventories; 3) life-cycle studies to provide valuable life-cycle indicators of the systems under study; 4) energy modelling studies through the integration of life-cycle indicators into energy models (e.g. TIMES-Norway); 5) development of a user-friendly tool that can potentially support policy-makers and stakeholders in decision-making about renewables. As a result of the project, relevant methodological advances have been made in the hybridisation of energy modelling and LCA methodologies, addressing challenges such as the imbalances between trade processes, double counting of emissions, and infeasibilities in the optimization. In particular, a robust framework for the soft-linking of LCA and TIMES/LEAP was developed and applied to the case study of national power generation. Moreover, a decision-making tool oriented towards energy policy-makers and stakeholders was developed. Seminars, talks and courses between partners were held. A scientific contribution was sent to the International conference SETAC Europe 26 Annual Meeting (Nantes, 22-26 May 2016), addressing the key outcomes from the project. The final results of the project shall also be presented in a dissemination session with in the 3rd Symposium of the Spanish Network of LCA, in 2016. Various scientific papers and contributions are under preparation or have already been submitted.
Summary of bilateral results
At the individual level, IMDEA Energy contributed to the project mainly as a source of experts in the field of life-cycle approaches, especially Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). IFE contributed to the project mainly as a source of experts in energy modelling. At the partnership level, the collaboration between both partners enabled the sound integration of life-cycle indicators into energy system optimisation models and the subsequent decision-making tool, which enhances the decision-making process by adding sustainability aspects to the mechanisms of selection of appropriate renewable energy portfolios and pathways for implementation. At the international level and related to the topics addressed in the SureTool project, both IMDEA Energy and IFE collaborate within the framework of the International Energy Agency Hydrogen Implementing Agreement task 36 on the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of Hydrogen Energy Systems, and in the European Energy Research Alliance Joint Programme on the Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of Energy Policies and Technologies. IFE was one of the partners of a recently rejected research project proposal coordinated by IMDEA Energy within the call H2020-LCE-2015-2. Furthermore, IFE and IMDEA Energy are studying the possibility of preparing a project proposal under the umbrella of the Norwegian Research Council.