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Environmental Assessment and Strategic Technology Choice: The Case of Renewable Transport Fuels
Institutionen för energi och miljö, Miljösystemanalys, Chalmers Tekniska Högskola, Göteborg.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The scale of the required changes is huge, and time is limited if we are to avoid the most severe effects of climate change. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport, several fuels and electricity originating from renewable energy sources have been proposed, all of them in different stages of development and with various and shifting environmental impacts. This thesis aims at increasing the usefulness of environmental assessments of emerging technologies as a basis for strategic technology choice. Recommendations for the design and interpretation of such assessments are presented, with a special focus on life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. A long time perspective, the possibility of system change, and the inclusion of socio–technical change processes allows for the revision of methodological assumptions normally made in LCA of current products. To guide the selection of technologies, there is need for assessment both of technology and of interventions. For the assessment of technology, an attributional approach is applied. Paper I discusses and tests the feasible futures and future performance to be considered in attributional LCAs. The results indicate that the environmental impact attributable to a number of selected fuels, as well as the ranking of them, largely depend on assumptions regarding background systems and by-product use. For the assessment of interventions, a consequential approach is applied. Extensive studies of socio–technical change processes contribute insight into relevant cause–effect chains that can be included in environmental assessments of emerging technologies. A comparison between the Swedish and the Dutch innovation systems for renewable fuels reveals the unfolding of dynamics influenced by shared background factors (Paper II). An investigation of the Swedish history of alternative fuels is used in developing a framework for analysing interaction between emerging technological systems (Paper III). Insights into socio–technical change processes are then used to elaborate scenarios for the future development of renewable fuels in Sweden resulting from current policy choices (Paper IV). In a final paper (Paper V), historical and future cause–effect chains are taken into account in a consequential LCA of ethanol of varying origins in Sweden for the 1990–2020 period. It is concluded that for emerging technologies in an early stage of development, the contribution of an intervention to system change may be more important than the direct change in environmental impact. Finally, it is suggested that all aspects of socio–technical change and the resulting environmental impact may not have to be included in quantitative environmental assessments, such as LCA. ‘Environmental assessment’ could very well include a group of parallel studies that illuminate different cause–effect chains resulting in changed environmental impact, and that are part of a society-wide learning process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg: Chalmers University of Technology , 2008. , 88 p.
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola, ISSN 0346-718X ; 2876
Keyword [en]
environmental assessment, life cycle assessment (LCA), socio-technical change, strategic technology choice, renewable fuels
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-25660ISBN: 978-91-7385-195-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-25660DiVA: diva2:1161256
Public defence
2008-11-21, HC3, Gothenburg, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Paper III och V var i manuskript-form vid avhandlingens publicerande.

Available from: 2017-11-29 Created: 2017-11-29 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Time and scale in Life Cycle Assessment: the case of fuel choice in the transport sector
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Time and scale in Life Cycle Assessment: the case of fuel choice in the transport sector
2008 (English)In: International Journal of Alternative Propulsion, ISSN 1471-0234, E-ISSN 1741-8011, Vol. 2, no 1, 1-12 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Life Cycle Assessments (LCA, including Well-to-Wheel studies) that are to support decisions that strive to change large technical systems need to consider time and scale related factors, which are given little attention in standard LCA procedures. Here, we address three issues and provide examples from the case of alternative fuels. First, shifting time frame gives room for technical development that should affect not only the choice of performance data, but perhaps also the functional unit and the selection of technologies under study. Secondly, background systems, such as heat and power production, change over time and increased production volumes of the alternative fuel change the transport system that is used to produce transport fuel. We show that such changes have consequences not only for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from each fuel-chain, but also for the ranking order of, e.g. Rapeseed Methyl Esther (RME) and ethanol in terms of GHG emissions. Finally, different types of feedstock are available in different quantities and different by-product markets vary in size. Key markets for RME by-products in EU correspond to an RME production that covers about 3% of transport fuel demand. Consequently, GHG emissions that are allocated to the fuel should change with the scale of adoption

Keyword
biofuels, ethanol; Life Cycle Assessment; LCA; Rapeseed Methyl Esther; RME
National Category
Energy Engineering Other Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-25663 (URN)10.1504/IJAP.2008.019689 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-11-29 Created: 2017-11-29 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
2. Cumulative causation in biofuels development: a critical comparison of the Netherlands and Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cumulative causation in biofuels development: a critical comparison of the Netherlands and Sweden
2008 (English)In: Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, ISSN 0953-7325, E-ISSN 1465-3990, Vol. 20, no 5, 593-612 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Supporting the development and diffusion of sustainable innovations has become a dominanttopic on the political agenda of many countries. However, this has proven to be a difficult task. Toincrease insight in such processes, this paper takes biofuel technologies in the mobility sector asthe topic of a comparative case study. Various national governments have supported innovationtrajectories around biofuels. We analyse, assess and compare two such trajectories as theyhave developed so far: one in the Netherlands and one in Sweden. A Technological InnovationSystem (TIS) approach is applied. A TIS is constituted by actors, networks and institutions,that are to be gradually constructed around a technology. We analyse whether governmentsand entrepreneurs have succeeded in developing seven key processes, or system functions,necessary for the development and diffusion of biofuel technologies. By analysing the build-upof system functions over time we identify virtuous and vicious forms of cumulative causation.The Dutch and Swedish TISs for biofuels are followed from 1990 to 2005. Our comparisonshows that, due to the fulfilment of system functions and the emergence of cumulative causation,the Swedish TIS has reached a market expansion and broad social implementation of biofuels,whereas the Dutch TIS has established considerably less.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Volume 20, Issue 5 September 2008 , pages 593 - 612, 2008
Keyword
technological innovation systems; system functions; biofuels
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-25659 (URN)10.1080/09537320802292826 (DOI)000258724200005 ()2-s2.0-51249099936 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2017-11-29 Created: 2017-11-29 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
3. A framework for analysis of multi-mode interaction among technologies with examples from the history of alternative transport fuels in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A framework for analysis of multi-mode interaction among technologies with examples from the history of alternative transport fuels in Sweden
2011 (English)In: Research Policy, ISSN 0048-7333, E-ISSN 1873-7625, Vol. 40, no 3, 403-414 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The relationship between technologies is a salient feature of the literature on technical change and terms like ’dominant design’ and ’technology lock-in’ are part of the standard vocabulary and put competition among technologies in focus. The aim of this paper is to provide an account of the wide range of interaction modes beyond competition that is prevalent in transition processes and to develop a conceptual framework to facilitate more detailed and nuanced descriptions of technology interaction. Besides competition, we identify five other basic modes of interaction: symbiosis, neutralism, parasitism, commensalism and amensalism. Further, we describe interaction as overlapping value chains. Defining a technology as a socio-technical system extending in material, organisational and conceptual dimensions allows for an even more detailed description of interaction. The conceptual framework is tested on and illustrated by a case study of interaction among alternative transport fuels in Sweden 1974-2004. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keyword
Lock-in; Symbiosis; Technological innovation; Technology selection; Transition, Alternative fuels; Competition; Technology, Innovation
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-9819 (URN)10.1016/j.respol.2010.12.005 (DOI)000288733600006 ()2-s2.0-79951951632 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2011-08-04 Created: 2011-08-04 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
4. Exploring technology paths: The development of alternative transport fuels in Sweden 2007–2020
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring technology paths: The development of alternative transport fuels in Sweden 2007–2020
2008 (English)In: Technological forecasting & social change, ISSN 0040-1625, E-ISSN 1873-5509, Vol. 75, no 8, 1279-1302 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

By using socio-technical scenarios, we investigate how present policy choices may affect the development of alternative transport fuels in Sweden. One important choice for policy lies in the balance between general tax exemptions stimulating the market for alternative fuels, and funding of research and development more directly promoting new technology. The implications of this choice are illustrated with four diverging development paths until 2020. In the market-oriented scenarios, we illustrate consequences of breaking the dominance of entrenched technologies and demonstrating a growing market potential for alternatives, but also the risks with a large focus on first generation renewable fuels. In the technology-oriented scenarios, we point out the value of keeping variety among niches in this stage of the transition. In conclusion, if policy is implemented without taking the dynamic forces within the system into account, there is a risk that any measure leads the system into a dead end. But if policy strives to balance the development in different parts of the technological system while making use of various prevailing forces of change, a multitude of different efforts can contribute to the development of a more sustainable transport system.

Keyword
Socio-technical scenarios Technological innovation systems Technological systems Alternative fuels Biofuels
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-25661 (URN)10.1016/j.techfore.2008.01.003 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-11-29 Created: 2017-11-29 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved

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