A framework for energy use indicators and their reporting in life cycle assessment
Journal article, 2016
Energy use is a common impact category in life cycle assessment (LCA). Many different energy use indicators are used in LCA studies, accounting for energy use in different ways. Often, however, the choice behind which energy use indicator is applied is poorly described and motivated. To contribute to a more purposeful selection of energy use indicators and to ensure consistent and transparent reporting of energy use in LCA, a general framework for energy use indicator construction and reporting in LCA studies will be presented in this article. The framework differentiates between 1) renewable and nonrenewable energies, 2) primary and secondary energies, and 3) energy intended for energy purposes versus energy intended for material purposes. This framework is described both graphically and mathematically. Furthermore, the framework is illustrated through application to a number of energy use indicators that are frequently used in LCA studies: cumulative energy demand (CED), nonrenewable cumulative energy demand (NRCED), fossil energy use (FEU), primary fossil energy use (PFEU), and secondary energy use (SEU). To illustrate how the application of different energy use indicators may lead to different results, cradle-to-gate energy use of the bionanomaterial cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) is assessed using 5 different indicators and showing a factor of 3 differences between the highest and lowest results. The relevance of different energy use indicators to different actors and contexts will be discussed, and further developments of the framework are then suggested.
Cumulative energy demand