Mining waste dumped into Portmán Bay continues to release metals into the sea 25 years later

The waters of the Mediterranean Sea continue to receive dissolved metals from the mining waste deposited in Portmán Bay (Murcia) 25 years after the cessation of mining activity.

A new ICTA-UAB project to assess the impacts of micro- and nano-plastics in the tropical and temperate oceans

A new project led by ICTA-UAB researcher Patrizia Ziveri is one of five projects selected for funding by the Joint Programming Initiative Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans (JPI Oceans).

Big data reveals extraordinary unity underlying life’s diversity

Limits to growth lie at the heart of how all living things function, according to a new study carried out by ICTA-UAB researchers  .

Jeroen van den Bergh, awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University of the Netherlands

The environmental economist at ICTA-UAB Prof. Dr Jeroen van den Bergh was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University of the Netherlands.

Paris Agreement hampered by inconsistent pledges, new ICTA-UAB research finds

Some countries' Paris Climate Agreement pledges may not be as ambitious as they appear, according a new study carried out by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).

High lead concentrations found in Amazonian wildlife

Researchers from ICTA-UAB and the UVic-UCC detect high levels of lead concentration in wildlife samples from the Peruvian Amazon caused by lead-based ammunition and oil-related pollution in extraction areas.

Study gauges trees’ potential to slow global warming in the future

The Pyrenean forests, the Cantabrian coast and Galicia show an important potential to accumulate even larger amounts of carbon dioxide in the future and thus help to slow down the increase in CO2 concentrations which are warming the planet.

Why do environmentalists eat meat?

A study by researchers at the ICTA-UAB analyses the reasons why environmentally-minded scientists find it difficult to give up meat consumption, one of the world's greatest environmental problems.

La gestión del verde urbano permite incrementar la presencia de pájaros en las ciudades

Incrementar la biodiversidad del verde urbano permitiría aumentar la presencia de aves paseriformes en las ciudades mediterráneas, según un estudio científico realizado por investigadores del Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Ambientales de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) que analiza qué estrategias hay que implementar sobre la vegetación urbana para conseguir "naturalizar" las ciudades favoreciendo la entrada de flora y fauna.

The Ebro River annually dumps 2.2 billion microplastics into the sea

An ICTA-UAB study analyses the distribution and accumulation of microplastics from one of the main rivers of the western Mediterranean.

European project to support rooftop greenhouses projects

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is launching an open call to support rooftop greenhouse projects, in the framework of GROOF Project.

El ICTA-UAB participa en el proyecto que habilitará 10 escuelas de Barcelona como refugios climáticos

El Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Ambientales de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) es una de las instituciones impulsoras de un proyecto que habilitará 10 escuelas de Barcelona como refugios climáticos para disminuir el impacto de las altas temperaturas del verano.

New study dismisses green growth policies as a route out of ecological emergency

Researchers from ICTA-UAB and the Goldsmiths University of London suggest that emissions reduction is only compatible with a lower economical degrowth or a degrowth scenario.

Indigenous knowledge, key to a successful ecosystem restoration

Ecological restoration projects actively involving indigenous peoples and local communities are more successful. This is the result of a study carried out by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).
News
Low-carbon energy transition requires more renewables than previously thought

Date: 2018-05-04

Transición economía baja en carbono

 

A new study by ICTA-UAB analyzes the impacts on lifestyles of substituting fossil fuels for cleaner energies.

Considering the planned use of renewable energy sources, societies would have between 24% and 31% less net energy per capita.

The transition to a low-carbon energy society will require more renewable energy sources than previously thought if current levels of energy consumption per capita and lifestyles are to be maintained. This is one of the main conclusions of a study recently published in Nature Energy by Lewis King and Jeroen van den Bergh of the Institute of Science and Environmental Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).

Following the Paris Agreement, several global energy transition scenarios have been presented. While these tend to be analysed in terms of gross energy, the authors of the study consider the need to calculate energy requirements by distinguishing between gross (total energy yielded) and net energy (gross energy minus the energy used to produce it). Relevant in this context is the notion of ‘Energy Return on Investment’ (EROI), which represents the amount of useful energy yielded for each unit of energy input in the process of obtaining that energy. The lower an energy source’s EROI, the more energy input is required to produce a given energy output, resulting in less net energy available for consumption. According to researchers, coal and hydroelectricity have high EROIs, while nuclear energy, oil and gas have medium EROIs, and solar and wind power  are characterized by medium to low EROIs.

The EROI level is important for a society’s economy, welfare and lifestyle. Once requirements for basic consumption (“essentials”) such as food and water are met, low-EROI economies would have less than half of the net energy of high-EROI economies available for consumption and production of all “non-essential” goods and services. This would have significant implications for lifestyles, and limit the ability to invest energy to achieve future economic growth. 
Thus, in the face of a future scenario based on renewable energy sources (with low-EROI rates), the researchers indicate that net energy per capita is likely to decline in the future between 24% and 31% from 2014 levels, unless substantial investments are made in energy efficiency.

“To maintain net energy per capita at current levels, renewable energy sources would have to grow at a rate two to three times that of current projections”, states Lewis King. The results further indicate a prioritization in phasing out fossil fuels, namely first coal, then oil and finally gas. This can be achieved by implementing a carbon price, which would discourage coal use more than oil, and oil more than gas.

To improve lifestyles, a low-EROI society has three options: increase gross energy production, improve end use energy efficiency in production and consumption, or improve the average EROI considerably through technological improvements and investment in higher-EROI energy sources. “The challenge of a rapid transition to low-carbon energy is therefore twofold: staying within the carbon budget associated with accepted climate change targets (2ºC warming) while continuing to deliver net energy for the needs of a growing global society”, says professor van den Bergh.

King and van den Bergh have developed a dynamic EROI model to analyze net energy supplied to society, considering both operational and investment costs. Moreover, the authors propose an ‘energy return on carbon’ (EROC) indicator, a metric of net energy per tCO2, to assist in maximizing potential net energy from the 2ºC carbon budget. This would allow comparison of the performance of different energy sources under the constraint of a climate change target.  According to the EROC indicator, among fossil fuels oil shale and tar sands are very bad choices in terms of climate risks, while natural gas with CCS (carbon capture and storage) comes out best, considerably better than coal with CCS, and performing more than 10 times better than oil shale and tar sands.

More information:
King, L.C., and van den Bergh J.C.J.M.  (2018). “Implications of net energy-return-on-investment for a low-carbon energy transition.” Nature Energy 3(4): 334-340 
(https://www-nature-com.vu-nl.idm.oclc.org/articles/s41560-018-0116-1).

ICTA's Activities