Influence of substance coverage on impacts from the electricity sector

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    Abstract

    The electricity sector is a major source of emissions of greenhouse gas, but also heavy metals, dioxins or radioactive isotopes. However, most environmental assessments of the electricity sector at national or global scale focus solely on
    climate change and do not include other environmental impact categories such as particulate matter formation or toxic impacts on human health. At the national scale, the few available databases are limited to a narrow substance coverage. For example, official reports of pollutants emissions to the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) should cover 23 substances in 51 countries, but they are not always complete. The Multi-Regional Input-Output database
    EXIOBASE includes environmental extensions emitted to air in 44 countries and 5 regions but only for 33 substances. In comparison, the database Ecoinvent provides emission data for hundreds of substances in the unit process inventories for electricity and heat generation. Here, we aim to to develop a globally consistent and extensive dataset of airborne emissions from electricity production to get a more realistic coverage of toxicity impacts in large-scale life cycle assessments (LCAs). We thus built the Ecoinvent-based National Energy-related Emission Inventory (ENEEI) by upscaling processes from Ecoinvent 3.3 with national production volumes of electricity and complementing it with emission data from external sources. The resulting inventory ENEEI covers 229 substances, including 51 radioactive isotopes. By comparing inventories and databases at midpoint level, we show that LCAs using Ecoinvent may underestimate the toxicity impacts associated with electricity production by a factor ranging from 1.4 to 1.9, while Exiobase may cut them off by up to 4 orders of magnitude in some countries. This demonstrates the importance of having an extensive substance coverage to fully represent the environmental impacts of electricity production.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the SETAC Europe: 28th Annual Meeting
    Publication date2018
    Pages168-168
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    EventSETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting - Rome, Italy
    Duration: 13 May 201817 May 2018

    Conference

    ConferenceSETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting
    CountryItaly
    CityRome
    Period13/05/201817/05/2018

    Cite this

    Leclerc, A. S. C., Hauschild, M. Z., Wood, R., & Laurent, A. (2018). Influence of substance coverage on impacts from the electricity sector. In Proceedings of the SETAC Europe: 28th Annual Meeting (pp. 168-168)