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Is the optimal decarbonization pathway influenced by indirect emissions? Incorporating indirect life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions into a European TIMES model

McDowall, WAS; Solano Rodriguez, B; Usubiaga, A; Acosta Fernández, J; (2018) Is the optimal decarbonization pathway influenced by indirect emissions? Incorporating indirect life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions into a European TIMES model. Journal of Cleaner Production , 170 pp. 260-268. 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.09.132. Green open access

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Abstract

Energy system optimization models (ESOMs) such as MARKAL/TIMES are used to support energy policy analysis worldwide. ESOMs cover the full life-cycle of fuels from extraction to end-use, including the associated direct emissions. Nevertheless, the life-cycle emissions of energy equipment and infrastructure are not modelled explicitly. This prevents analysis of questions relating to the relative importance of emissions associated with the build-up of infrastructure and other equipment required for decarbonization. We have soft-linked an environmentally-extended input-output (EEIO) model to a European TIMES Model (ETM-UCL) with the aim of addressing the following questions: - In what ways does the inclusion of indirect emissions change the optimal technology pathway for decarbonizing the European energy system? - How much does the present value of key low-carbon technologies change when indirect emissions are accounted for in a decarbonization scenario for Europe? We show that, although indirect emissions are a relatively small portion of overall power sector emissions (<10% in 2050), including them in the model leads to changes in the optimal power sector portfolio. Renewable energy technologies become relatively less attractive once indirect emissions are included within the optimization framework, and we quantify this effect, showing that it is not large. Changes to the relative attractiveness of specific renewable energy technologies are more pronounced than the reduction in attractiveness of renewable energy as a whole: in our main scenarios wind energy saw increased relative deployment in 2050 when indirect emissions are accounted for, since it displaced other technologies with higher life-cycle emissions (notably solar PV). Optimal cumulative installed capacity of PV in the EU 2050 is at least 7% lower when indirect emissions are included. We conclude that policy advice derived from ESOMs that focuses on the roles of specific technologies should ensure that it is robust to the possible effects of indirect emissions.

Type: Article
Title: Is the optimal decarbonization pathway influenced by indirect emissions? Incorporating indirect life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions into a European TIMES model
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.09.132
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.09.132
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Energy system modelling, Life cycle assessment, TIMES model, Consequential LCA, Energy policy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1573715
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