The eco-costs of energy
The calculation method
to determine the eco-costs of energy is based on the assumption that unsustainable
energy carriers (energy from fossil fuels, and nuclear energy) will gradually
be replaced by sustainable energy sources.
There is a difference between electricity and heat from fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and diesel and gasoline for transport, as explained below:
and heat from fossil fuels:
The eco-costs of electricity are determined by the eco-costs of its actual emissions as calculated in the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI): 'direct emissions' (i.e. CO2, SO2, etc. of burning fossil fuels), plus 'indirect emissions' and 'indirect materials depletion' caused by building the required infrastructure (e.g. windmills).
The marginal prevention costs of fossil based energy of modern power plants are highly related to the marginal prevention costs of CO2 (0,116 €/kg CO2 equivalent). This fossil based electricity will gradually be replaced by renewable energy systems. Such an energy transition is characterised by reduction of CO2 emissions in the electricity mix of a region or a country (In Europe, the power grid is interconnected for the ENTSO-E countries), resulting in less eco-costs. The eco-costs of CO2 as such, however, is not affected: the costs of replacement of a coal fired power plants by windmills at sea will not be changed by the transition as such. These eco-costs of CO2 are only affected by better efficiencies and economies of scale (e.g. bigger wind turbines), and not by higher market prices of electricity and/or subsidies. See also the tab 'emissions' at this website.
Note that the eco-costs of fossil fuels depletion are not counted in the eco-costs of electricity, since the CO2 emissions are counted. The reason is the system integrated solution: CO2 reduction goes hand in hand with reduction of use of fossil fuels (it is the same prevention measure). This avoidance of 'double counting' is in line with ISO 14044, section 126.96.36.199.3.
fuels (diesel, gasoline, kerosine, etcetera):
For transport fuels, the classic source is fossil based hydrocarbons. In the eco-costs system, these fossil hydrocarbons are replaced by hydrocarbons from second generation biomass (just like plastics).
This leads to the eco-costs of resource scarcity 0.8 euro/kg for transport fuels, as it is calculated at webpage 'The eco-costs of resource scarcity', 'use of energy carriers (embedded in products)'.
In fact, this is the system integrated solution: the use of biobases fuels goes hand in hand with reduction of CO2 reduction (it is the same prevention measure). So, double counting must be avoided, line with ISO 14044, section 188.8.131.52.3. In contrast to the approach for electricity, the approach for transport fuels is to subtract the eco-costs of CO2 from the eco-costs of resource depletion, leading to 0.8 - 0.36 = 0.44 euro per kg transport fuel.
Note that electrical cars (BEVs) or hydrogen cars (FCEVs) are system integrated solutions for the future as well. However, the eco-costs of these system integrated transition routes are still higher than the chosen prevention measure of second generation biobased fuels. It might be that the electrical cars and hydrogen cars become really attractive in the future, and it might be that the eco-costs of these solutions become lower than thebiobased fuel approach. But additional technological breakthroughs are indispensible to become functional competitive, so cost calculations for the future are still rather uncertain (Berckmans et al., 2017), and depend highly on the functional unit, e.g. the driving range, and the place and time of loading (Olinda et al. 2020).
For nuclear power:
Nuclear power is regarded as unsustainable in the eco-costs model. However, it is necessary to incorporate it in LCA, especially in electricity where it cannot be ignored. Nuclear power is calculated by the use of nuclear fuels (e.g. uranium) on the bases of MJ/kg thermal. The calculation pathway in the eco-costs model is that nuclear power is abandoned by replacing it by fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), and from there mitigate the extra CO2 emissions of the fossil power plants by offshore windfarms at 0.116 €/kg CO2. Such a calculation route results in eco-costs of 3221 €/kg uranium of 500 GJ/kg for the ENTSO-e mix (2016) of 4.3% oil, 46.1 % gas and 49.6% coal.
Assumption are: average efficiency nuclear 33%, oil (44 MJ/kg) 39%, gas (42 MJ/kg) 45%, coal (25 MJ/kg) 35%. It results in 9615 kg oil/kg U, 8730 kg gas/kg U and 18857 kg coal/kg U. The CO2 emissions are then for oil, gas and coal respectively: 30192, 24008, and 31058 (kg CO2/ kg U.
Multiplying with 0.116 euro/kg CO2 results in 3502, 2785, and 3603 (euro/kg U) for respectively oil, gas, and coal.
The eco-costs of uranium is counted under "eco-costs of use of energy carriers", similar to the midpoint table in the Environmental Footprint initiative of the EU JRC (the midpoint also called " resource use, energy carriers"; both midpoint table are nearly the same)
Note. Another route would be to replace uranium by fusion of Deuterium and Tritium (from heavy water), as it is prepared in France by the international ITER project. It seams to be safe and has hardly no emissions, however is still under discussion. It might be a solution for after 2050, and financial uncertainties are high. Such a transition route results in eco-costs of 2950 €/kg uranium of 500 GJ/kg, with an uncertainty of at least plus or minus 50%. Calculation based on the 'average' costs data from (Entler et al 2018). This route, however, is not taken as the basis for eco-costs, since all uncertainties and discussions.
Berckmans G, Messagie M, Smekens J, Omar N, Vanhaverbeke L, Van Mierlo J. Cost Projection of state of the art Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles Up to 2030. Energies 2017, 10(9), 1314
Entler S, Horacek J, Dlouhy T, Dostal V. Approximation of the economy of fusion energy. 2018 Energy Vol 152, pp 489-497
Olinda R, Smitt N, Vogtlander J. Practical choices on European LCI data of electricity in LCA: inconvenient uncertainties in leading databases, inaccuracies and the need for extra calculation rules.
Vogtländer et al., 2010. LCA-based assessment of sustainability: the Eco-costs/Value Ratio (EVR). Original publications on the theory, updated with eco-costs 2007 data, VSSD, Delft, 2010. (http://www.vssd.nl/hlf/b004.htm)
see also under tab
data, reference 1.0