Life-Cycle Assessment of Electric Power Systems
The application of life-cycle assessment (LCA) to electric power (EP) technologies is a vibrant research pursuit that is likely to continue as the world seeks ways to meet growing electricity demand with reduced environmental and human health impacts. While LCA is an evolving methodology with a number of barriers and challenges to its effective use, LCA studies to date have clearly improved our understanding of the life-cycle energy, GHG emissions, air pollutant emissions, and water use implications of EP technologies. With continued progress, LCA offers promise for assessing and comparing EP technologies in an analytically-thorough and environmentally-holistic manner for more robust deployment decisions. This article summarizes: (1) major challenges in applying LCA to EP technologies thus far, (2) LCA results to date on the various impacts of EP technologies, and (3) opportunities for improving LCAs as applied to EP technologies moving forward.