Zero Emission Developments - Towards future sustainable communities

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för Energivetenskaper

Abstract: A raised awareness around climate change has been followed by different initiatives and targets being set around the world to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Pressure is not only being placed on international and national bodies but also on local communities, industries, businesses and even individual households. The most prominent international action is the funding of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and the establishment of the Kyoto Protocol. However, local governments, communities and private developers have also realised the need for action in this area. Regions, cities and communities are acting strongly to decrease their emissions and municipalities are leading by example in stimulating a transition from the use of fossil fuels towards renewable energy. To become zero in greenhouse gas emissions is increasingly becoming a common expression for these local actors, resulting in new projects here referred to as „zero emission developments‟ Zero emission developments are generally local projects aiming to create sustainable communities. Local and national governments as well as private developers or organisations can all be part of the establishment. They are aiming for targets which the rest of the world is not even close in attempting to reach. Hence, zero emission developments are extremely important in the phase of moving towards a future relying on renewable energy sources and high energy efficiency, along with decreasing greenhouse pollution. It is vital to document the progress of zero emission developments in order to continue to expand and promote the concept of those developments. This is crucial due to the potential that these developments have to set an example to the rest of the world, showing the future possibilities to create developments which release zero emissions as a part of the actions required to tackle climate change. Based on the future value seen in zero emission developments there is a need to recognise possible ways of identifying zero emission developments and outline vital steps in the definition process. Moreover, an outline of renewable resources, renewable and efficient technologies and abatement strategies that are available, along with other important considerations when creating a zero emission development, is essential. In addition, the modelling of different scenarios of technology and strategy combinations is vital. Such modelling aims to present a range of options to achieve zero emissions. These scenarios depend on particular goals set out by the project proponent, which may include achieving zero emissions through certain economic goals, social benefits, a particular community environment or specific environmental perspective. It is found that the definition of a zero emission development is a complex but vital process. It is argued that no universal definition should be developed due to the Malin Lindblad iii variable conditions and opportunities each development has. Instead, it is crucial to each development to create an individual definition. An outline involving what is important to consider when defining a zero emission development has been created to guide developers when determining their definition. A definition should involve an establishment of suitable terminology and clarification of what the terminology involves. Moreover, an area, boundary conditions, classifying involved energy sectors, and timeframes for the emissions accounted for, are crucial elements of a definition. Suitable renewable energy technologies that have been evaluated for zero emission developments are solar and wind energy, hydroelectric energy and co-generation operating on biofuel. Additional energy efficient technologies discussed are co- and tri-generation operating on natural gas and ground source heat pumps. The importance of passively designed houses for reduced energy demand is presented, and different abatement strategies discussed. It is argued that the more scenarios that are modelled, with different proposed technologies and strategies, the more likely the project proponents are to find a model which suits the aims and objectives of the particular development. In this thesis a total of four scenarios have been modelled. In reality, four scenarios is probably insufficient for making a decision on which will provide the best outcome in terms of set aims and objectives. Instead the modelling is an attempt to demonstrate a spectrum of possible combinations of technologies and strategies, varying from scenarios with more established energy efficient technologies to those completely relying on renewable energy technologies. The effect of a future carbon price to those implementations is found to put the scenarios solely depending on renewable energy technologies in a different light. This is particularly evident when calculating the Net Present Value (NPV), involving a carbon price, for the scenarios. The outcome of the calculations shows the importance of including future probable costs for emissions. Furthermore, it is found that to justify high initial costs for future zero emission developments, a price on environmental benefits could be important to consider. It is concluded that early zero emission developments provide the guidance towards extended implementations. In the future the hope is that these early developments will play a vital role as a guideline to larger and more complex definitions and implementations of zero emission developments. Zero emission developments represent a small-scale application of what hopefully will be the future of all new developments. They are found to establish a learning process for further spreading of implementations, definitions and renewable and efficient energy technologies and abatement strategies. Hence, documentation and guidelines of these early developments are vital to support increasing amount of establishments, and provide an important stepping stone towards a future of more sustainable living.

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