Date: 28 Jan 2014

Life cycle inventories of electricity generation and power supply in version 3 of the ecoinvent database—part II: electricity markets

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Abstract

Purpose

Representative, consistent and up-to-date life cycle inventories (LCI) of electricity supply are key elements of ecoinvent as an LCI background database since these are often among the determining factors with regard to life cycle assessment (LCA) results. ecoinvent version 3 (ev3) offers new LCI data of power supply (electricity markets) in 71 geographies. This article gives an overview of these electricity markets and discusses new ecoinvent features in the context of power supply.

Methods

The annual geography- and technology-specific electricity production for the year 2008 specifies the technology shares on the high-, medium- and low-voltage level electricity markets. Data are based on IEA statistics. Different voltage levels are linked by transformation activities. Region-specific electricity losses due to power transmission and voltage transformation are considered in the market and transformation activities. The majority of the 71 power markets are defined by national boundaries. The attributional ecoinvent system model in ev3 with linking to average current suppliers results in electricity markets supplied by all geography-specific power generation technologies and electricity imports, while the consequential system model generates markets only linked to unconstrained suppliers.

Results and discussion

The availability of LCI data for 71 electricity markets in ev3 covering 50 countries reduces the “Rest-of-the-World” electricity supply not covered by country- or region-specific inventories to 17 % for the year 2008. Specific power supply activities for all countries contributing more than 1 % to global electricity production are available. The electricity markets show large variations concerning contributions from specific technologies and energy carriers. Imports can substantially change the national/regional power mix, especially in small markets. Large differences can also be observed between the electricity markets in the attributional and the consequential database calculation. Region-specific total power losses between production on the high voltage level and consumer on the low voltage level are on the order of 2.5–23 %.

Conclusions

Electricity supply mixes (electricity markets) in the ecoinvent database have been updated and substantially extended for v3. Inventories for electricity supply in all globally important economies are available with geography-specific technology and market datasets which will contribute to increasing quality and reducing uncertainties in LCA studies worldwide and to allow more accurate estimation of environmental burdens from global production chains. Future work should focus on improving the details of country-specific data, implementation of more countries into the database, splitting of large countries into smaller regions and on developing a more sophisticated approach specifying country-specific electricity mixes in consequential system models.

Responsible editor: Niels Jungbluth