Challenges of an LCA based decision making framework: The case of EU sustainability criteria for biofuels: Dissertation

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles

Abstract

The European Union (EU) has set a 10% target for renewable energy in transportation by 2020 in its Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The EU has also set sustainability criteria for biofuels, including a greenhouse gas (GHG) calculation method to study the emission saving gained by biofuels compared to fossil fuels. Only biofuels accepted by these criteria can contribute to the renewable energy targets and benefit from national support systems. The GHG calculation method is an application of life cycle assessment (LCA) framework, which is often used to study the environmental impacts of biofuels. This thesis aims to analyse how a tool based on LCA framework can support decision making on biofuels in policy context and what are the challenges encountered. Even though LCA is a widely applied tool for evaluating the environmental im-pacts of products, several challenges remain - for example related to system boundary setting, allocation procedure, and parameter assumptions. In policy context, the needed simplifications of the LCA framework create an extra chal-lenge. The results of this study show that the current RED GHG assessment method cannot alone guarantee the climate change mitigation benefits due to biofuel use. Therefore, several suggestions to develop the RED GHG criteria are given. General clarification of the RED guidelines concerning the interpretation problems, appropriate data, and cut-off criteria is needed. The uncertainty of the GHG results needs to be acknowledged, as LCA always present only an estima-tion of the real world. Economic allocation could be used instead of energy allocation, in order to clarify the economic causality of the analysed systems as well as the double counting rule of the RED for waste and residue based feedstocks. An important addition to the current RED method is to recognize the significance of potential loss of ecosystem carbon stocks and additional carbon sequestration related to bioenergy chains. This can be done by including the land use reference system in bioenergy LCA. The RED sustainability criteria and the EU bioenergy policy should be further developed in order to guarantee the use of most climate beneficial bioenergy options.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Syri, Sanna, Supervisor, External person
  • Soimakallio, Sampo, Advisor, External person
Award date15 Jun 2016
Place of PublicationEspoo
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6794-0, 978-951-38-8430-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6795-7, 978-951-38-8422-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fingerprint

biofuel
European Union
life cycle
decision making
sustainability
energy
bioenergy
greenhouse gas
assessment method
directive
economics
carbon sequestration
fossil fuel
environmental impact
land use
ecosystem
carbon
climate

Keywords

  • LCA
  • biofuel
  • sustainability criteria
  • EU
  • uncertainty
  • system boundary
  • reference land use

Cite this

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title = "Challenges of an LCA based decision making framework: The case of EU sustainability criteria for biofuels: Dissertation",
abstract = "The European Union (EU) has set a 10{\%} target for renewable energy in transportation by 2020 in its Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The EU has also set sustainability criteria for biofuels, including a greenhouse gas (GHG) calculation method to study the emission saving gained by biofuels compared to fossil fuels. Only biofuels accepted by these criteria can contribute to the renewable energy targets and benefit from national support systems. The GHG calculation method is an application of life cycle assessment (LCA) framework, which is often used to study the environmental impacts of biofuels. This thesis aims to analyse how a tool based on LCA framework can support decision making on biofuels in policy context and what are the challenges encountered. Even though LCA is a widely applied tool for evaluating the environmental im-pacts of products, several challenges remain - for example related to system boundary setting, allocation procedure, and parameter assumptions. In policy context, the needed simplifications of the LCA framework create an extra chal-lenge. The results of this study show that the current RED GHG assessment method cannot alone guarantee the climate change mitigation benefits due to biofuel use. Therefore, several suggestions to develop the RED GHG criteria are given. General clarification of the RED guidelines concerning the interpretation problems, appropriate data, and cut-off criteria is needed. The uncertainty of the GHG results needs to be acknowledged, as LCA always present only an estima-tion of the real world. Economic allocation could be used instead of energy allocation, in order to clarify the economic causality of the analysed systems as well as the double counting rule of the RED for waste and residue based feedstocks. An important addition to the current RED method is to recognize the significance of potential loss of ecosystem carbon stocks and additional carbon sequestration related to bioenergy chains. This can be done by including the land use reference system in bioenergy LCA. The RED sustainability criteria and the EU bioenergy policy should be further developed in order to guarantee the use of most climate beneficial bioenergy options.",
keywords = "LCA, biofuel, sustainability criteria, EU, uncertainty, system boundary, reference land use",
author = "Kati Koponen",
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series = "Aalto University Publication Series: Doctoral Dissertations",
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Challenges of an LCA based decision making framework : The case of EU sustainability criteria for biofuels: Dissertation. / Koponen, Kati.

Espoo : Aalto University, 2016. 125 p.

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles

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