Principles-Based Comparison Framework for Renewable Electricity Options
Abstract: Electricity generation is both a major contributor to the root causes of environmental unsustainability and an energy source that will likely play an important role in the transition to a sustainable society. Because renewable sources of electricity generation are seen as sustainable as a group, there is a danger that investments will be made in renewable technologies that do not effectively move society towards sustainability. We propose the use of a scientific, principles-based definition of sustainability to compare current and future renewable electricity options on their sustainability potential. This study presents a pilot decision-support comparison tool, Guide for Sustainable Energy Decisions (GSED), designed to give investors, policy makers, and manufacturers strategic guidance on the most effective renewable technologies to invest in for sustainability. The tool is based on a modified version of life cycle assessment (LCA) that allows comparisons of the upstream and downstream effects of generation technologies from a whole-systems sustainability perspective. Early feedback by experts suggests that the tool has strong potential to serve as an effective comparison tool and help decision-makers make strategic investments for sustainability.
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