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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Decision-making in Electricity Generation Based on Global Warming Potential and Life-cycle Assessment for Climate Change


The use of an indicator that is based on global climate change effects is important to support decision-makers committed to sustainable development. Our project demonstrated the use of life-cycle assessment (LCA) as a systematic approach to analyzing the construction and upgrade, operation, maintenance, and ultimate decommissioning of electric power plants. A case study of a hydroelectric power plant (Glen Canyon) was completed, including sensitivity analysis.

The LCA performed in this research quantified emissions during different phases of the life of a power plant. The emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) were then characterized using the global warming potential (GWP) method. GWP is a method to compare the global climate change effects of different GHGs to that of CO2. It provides a relative assessment of impacts based on selection of specific time frames. However, because the GWP compares the potential impacts of any GHG to the potency of CO2, we decided to use a different name for our indicator that assesses the potential impact of electricity generation technologies. The global warming effect (GWE) combines LCA and GWP, and was used in comparative assessments of electricity generation technologies.

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