Novel approaches for sustainability assessment of clean energy systems
Mentor: Jovita Moreno Vozmediano
Phone: (+34) 914888087
University: Universidad Rey Juan Carlos
Partner Host Institution: IMDEA Energy - System Analysis Unit - Researcher Diego Iribarren ( - 2nd year of applied research compulsory. This research line has been developed together with IMDEA Energy. The second year of applied research in IMDEA Energy is compulsory under this line.
Keywords: life cycle thinking, sustainability, clean, enegy, multicriteria

Novel approaches for sustainability assessment of clean energy systems

Ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns is a key pillar within the European Union. This can be understood as increasing quality of life and net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use as well as degradation and pollution along the whole life cycle (“doing more and better with less”). One of the paths towards this goal could be based on the implementation of clean energy systems. In fact, the energy sector plays an essential role in economic and social development, as well as in terms of environmental impacts. Furthermore, achieving sustainable energy systems is strongly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 and which provide a powerful framework for driving the change towards human development and climate objectives. In this sense, even though SDG7 is a specific goal on energy that aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all”, the implementation of clean energy systems would also contribute to other SDGs, such as SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 3 (good health and well-being) or SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).

Along with the implementation of clean energy systems, evaluation procedures are required in order to verify their effectiveness in reaching a sustainable energy sector, contributing to the 17 SDGs. In this sense, sound methodological approaches are needed when it comes to identifying and assessing current sustainability concerns, prioritising energy scenarios and providing recommendations for a robust process of decision-making. Among the methodologies available, life-cycle approaches has emerged as suitable tools to systematically assess the sustainability of products and services from a life cycle perspective, providing a framework for the joint analysis of the three pillars of sustainability (i.e., environmental, economic and social). Additionally, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) methods arise as effective decision support solutions to address complex problems dealing with opposite objectives and interests, uncertainties, non-harmonised data, etc.

However, there is still a lack of consensus regarding the development of standard indicators and methodologies that measure the sustainability assessment of clean energy systems in terms of SDGs. This research line tries to fill this gap, proposing the development of new approaches based on the combination of life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA), including environmental, social and economic aspects; and MCDA tools. This combination aims to constitute a robust framework for assessing sustainability, monitoring the progress towards the SDGs and supporting an enhanced process of decision-making.

Within this research line, four central activities are expected:
1) Development of an SDG-oriented LCSA approach.
2) Development of an MCDA framework.
3) Combination in a tool oriented towards decision-makers.
4) Application of the tool through a set of illustrative case studies.

Departament: Energy and Chemical Technology, Environmental and Chemical Technology, Mechanical Technology, Analytical Chemistry
Research Group: Sustainability Assessment of Processes and Products
More Information:
Relevants projects on the area: SUNlight-to-LIQUID: Integrated solar-thermochemical synthesis of liquid hydrocarbon fuels (SUN-to-LIQID). Organismo financiador: Unión Europea Horizon 2020 (Contrato 654.408). 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019
Relevants publications on the area: 1.- Juan A. Botas, Jovita Moreno, Juan J. Espada, David P. Serrano, Javier Dufour (2017). “Recycling of used lubricating oil: evaluation of environmental and energy performance by LCA”. Resources, Conservation & Recycling 125 (2017): 315-323.
2.- R. Rodríguez, J.J. Espada, J. Moreno, G. Vicente, L.F. Bautista, V. Morales, A. Sánchez-Bayo, J. Dufour (2018). “Environmental analysis of Spirulina cultivation and biogas production using experimental and simulation approach”. Renewable Energy 129: 724-732