Environmental Impact and External Cost Assessment
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The basis of the environmental impact assessment is the “impact pathway approach” including life cycle data. The assessment starts with the modeling of emissions of the systems under consideration. If appropriate, the contributions of the life cycle to emissions and other burdens (e.g. land-use) are considered as well. Based on the emission data, the changes of the environment are modeled (e.g. increased air pollutant concentrations). Exposure-response models are used to estimate the physical impacts on receptors (human health damages, damages on crop yields, damages on ecosystems, damages on materials). A method to aggregate different environmental impacts is the use of external costs i.e. the monetary valuation of the impacts.
Figure 1 shows the structure of the impact pathway approach. The special focus of the LEA group is on the combination of external cost assessment with full-scope life cycle inventory analysis.
A brief introduction into environmental impact and external cost assessment can be found here
Selected project results
IMBALANCE - Impact of Biomass burning Aerosol on Air quality and Climate
IMBALANCE Website: http://www.cces.ethz.ch/projects/clench/imbalance
The substitution of fossil fuels by biomass can reduce carbon dioxide emissions if the biomass is sustainably produced. However, emissions from biomass combustion have a variety of impacts on human health and environment. Especially, aerosol particles cause health damages and exert a climate forcing. IMBALANCE is a multi-institute experimental and modeling collaboration with ETHZ, PSI, EMPA & FHNW to investigate the impacts of biomass burning.
Our group performs assessment of environmental impacts and external costs related to biomass combustion. The tasks include the modeling of emissions including life cycle contributions for use in externality assessment in cooperation with experimental groups. External costs of wood systems will be compared to external costs of other energy systems. Figure 2 shows estimates of external costs for different classes of wood combustion systems in Switzerland. The assessment includes direct effects due to the emissions from the chimneys of the appliances as well as indirect effects due to the life cycle of fuel wood production, transports, materials etc. Primary PM (particulate matter) and secondary PM are major contributors to health damages. Primary particulates are formed during the combustion process and emitted from the chimneys. Secondary particles are formed in the atmosphere from gaseous precursor emissions. The assessment includes also health impacts due to other emissions like hazardous organic compounds and heavy metals, impacts on crop yields, risk of biodiversity losses, material damages, and climate change effects of greenhouse gases (GHG). The contributions from the rest of chain have been calculated with life cycle inventory data from ecoinvent.
Figure 2: External costs per MJ fuel wood for different classes of wood combustion systems currently operating in Switzerland (Source: Heck & Meyer 2010).
THELMA - TecHnology-centered ELectric Mobility Assessment
THELMA Website: http://www.thelma-emobility.net/
The project THELMA aims at the integrated assessment of sustainability implications of widespread electric vehicle use in Switzerland. The research is performed by a partnership of six different research groups within the domain of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.
For the impact and external cost assessment, the direct emissions from the vehicle as well as the indirect emissions from the rest of the chain using LCA data has to be considered. For carbon burning motor cars (fossil-based or biofuel-based) the exhaust emissions from the motor during the drive-cycle are essential. On the other hand, for electric cars, the direct emissions from the vehicle are small (although not zero because of e.g. particulate emissions due to abrasion from tires). Nevertheless, also in this case there are indirect emissions and associated damages from the rest of the chain. This comprises in particular the production of electricity (leading to potential emissions from power plants or, e.g. in case of solar electricity, emissions during solar module production) and the production of the vehicle itself. Substantial additional contributions to the impacts compared to conventional vehicles are to be expected in particular for the production of the battery or the fuel cells and other specific components. These contributions are investigated in the LCA part of the project and then integrated into the environmental impact and external cost assessment.
OPTIWARES - OPTImization of the use of Wood As a Renewable Energy Source
OPTIWARES Website: http://www.cces.ethz.ch/projects/clench/optiwares
OPTIWARES will improve the quantitative understanding of the impact of aerosols from wood combustion on air quality and climate and develop improved strategies for encouraging the use of more appropriate wood combustion facilities. The four key objectives of OPTIWARES are:
- To assess the influence of wood burners on air quality
- To improve the application energy conversion systems using wood
- To assess the regional climate effect of wood combustion
- To calculate the external costs of the various types of wood usages
Heck, T.and Hirschberg S.(2011). China: Economic impacts of air pollution in the country. In: Nriagu JO (ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Health. volume 1, pp. 625–640 Burlington: Elsevier. ISBN: 978-0-444-52273-3.
Meyer, N.K. and Heck, T. (2011). “Wood combustion emissions in Switzerland and associated impact assessments” in Proceedings of the European Aerosol Conference, Manchester, 2011.
Meyer, N.K. (2011). “Particulate, black carbon and organic emissions from small-scale residential wood combustion appliances in Switzerland” Biomass & Bioenergy, 2011, 36, 31-42.
Heck T., & Meyer N.K (2010). “External costs related to impacts of biomass combustion systems”, CCES-Latsis Symposium, ETH Zürich, 15-17 Nov, Poster PDF .
Heck, T., C. Bauer and R. Dones (2009). Development of parameterisation methods to derive transferable life cycle inventories. Report. New Energy Externalities Developments for Sustainability. Brussels. Report: www.needs-project.org/2009/.
Heck T. and Hirschberg S. (2007): Health and Environmental Effects, in: Schumacher-Voelker E. and Mueller B. (Eds.), BusinessFocus China: Energy. GIC (German Industry & Commerce), Shanghai, ISBN 978-3-940114-00-6, pp. 255-264.
- For a complete list of TA publications click here.