Derivation and assessment of regional electricity generation emission factors in the USA

Int J Life Cycle Assess. 2022 Dec 19;28:156-171. doi: 10.1007/s11367-022-02113-1.


PURPOSE: Electricity production is one of the largest sources of environmental emissions-especially greenhouse gases (GHGs)-in the USA. Emission factors (EFs) vary from region to region, which requires the use of spatially relevant EF data for electricity production while performing life cycle assessments (LCAs). Uncertainty information, which is sought by LCA practitioners, is rarely supplied with available life cycle inventories (LCIs).

METHODS: To address these challenges, we present a method for collecting data from different sources for electricity generation and environmental emissions; discuss the challenges involved in agglomerating such data; provide relevant suggestions and solutions to merge the information; and calculate EFs for electricity generation processes from various fuel sources for different spatial regions and spatial resolutions. The EFs from the US 2016 Electricity Life Cycle Inventory (eLCI) are analyzed and explored in this study. We also explore the method of uncertainty information derivation for the EFs.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: We explore the EFs from different technologies across Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) regions in the USA. We find that for certain eGRID regions, the same electricity production technology may have worse emissions. This may be a result of the age of the plants in the region, the quality of fuel used, or other underlying factors. Region-wise life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) ISO 14040 impacts for total generation mix activities provide an overview of the total sustainability profile of electricity production in a particular region, rather than only global warming potential (GWP). We also find that, for different LCIA impacts, several eGRID regions are consistently worse than the US average LCIA impact for every unit of electricity generated.

CONCLUSION: This work describes the development of an electricity production LCI at different spatial resolutions by combining and harmonizing information from several databases. The inventory consists of emissions, fuel inputs, and electricity and steam outputs from different electricity production technologies located across various regions of the USA. This LCI for electricity production in the USA will prove to be an enormous resource for all LCA researchers-considering the detailed sources of the information and the breadth of emissions covered by it.

PMID:36891065 | PMC:PMC9990895 | DOI:10.1007/s11367-022-02113-1


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