Project Leader: Professor Adisa Azapagic
Project Duration: September 2007 - September 2010.
The aim of this research has been to identify the most sustainable options for electricity production in Mexico with an outlook to 2050. An integrated methodology for sustainability assessment of different electricity technologies and scenarios has been developed, taking into account environmental, economic and social aspects. The environmental impacts have been estimated using life cycle assessment; the economic costs considered include total capital and annualised costs while social aspects include security and diversity of energy supply, public acceptability, health and safety impacts and intergenerational issues. To help identify the most sustainable options, multi-criteria decision analysis has been used.
The methodology has been applied to Mexican conditions for the assessment of both current and future electricity production. The results for the current situation show that on a life cycle basis 129 million tonnes of CO2 eq. are emitted annually from 225 TWh of electricity generated in Mexico. Heavy fuel oil, gas and coal power plants contribute together to 87% of CO2 eq. emissions. Total annualised costs are estimated at US$ 22.4 billion/yr with the fuel costs contributing 54%, mainly due to the operation of gas and heavy fuel oil power plants. A range of future scenarios up to 2050 has been developed in an attempt to identify the most sustainable options. The development of the scenarios has been driven and informed by the national greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 50% by 2050 on the 2000 levels, translating to an 85% reduction from the power sector. The results show that the business as usual (BAU) scenario (with the highest contribution from fossil fuels) is the least sustainable option with the CO2 eq. emissions increasing by almost 300% for a projected electricity demand of 813 TWh in 2050.
Overall, the most sustainable scenarios are those with higher penetration of renewable energies (wind, solar and hydro) and nuclear power, as in Green, A-3 and C-3. For example, compared to the BAU scenarios, the CO2 eq. emissions reduce by 84%, 89% and 89%, respectively. Although renewable energy based scenarios require high capital costs, the total annualised costs even out over time due to lower fuel costs. The lowest annualised costs are for C-3 and A-3 scenarios, representing a 40% reduction on BAU which is by far the most expensive option. With respect to social issues, the BAU scenario is also the least preferred option with the highest risks related to security and diversity of supply, health and safety and climate change. The most sustainable options are scenarios A-3 and Green, with social barriers related to public acceptability, reliability of supply and availability of energy resource. Most critical aspects for scenario C-3 are health and safety risks, and intergenerational issues related to nuclear power. In the case of the energy policy driver focusing on climate change mitigation and annualised costs, scenarios A-3 and C-3 are the most sustainable options. Therefore, the Mexican Government should aim to strengthen the current low carbon energy policies as well as put measures in place to encourage reducing the electricity demand.
This project is completed and the PhD dissertation can be found here.