Life Cycle Analysis of Sustainable Technologies

Video produced by Meredith Moore (Instructor: Kristen Swain) Dr. Waheed Uddin, Ole Miss civil engineering professor, introduces a lifecycle analysis (LCA) approach to evaluating alternative energy infrastructure and other sustainability projects. He argues that even though traditional lifecycle analysis considers agency costs and user costs associated with pavement service life, the impacts of infrastructure on the environment and energy use have been historically ignored. CO2 emissions are directly proportional to fuel consumption. However, environmental and societal costs, essential for sustainable pavement projects, have been lacking from the traditional LCA approach of transportation projects. These costs include: energy and sustainability related to construction phase, impacts of environmental degradation (air and water) due to vehicular traffic and runoff from roads, adverse impacts of GHG emissions resulting from vehicular traffic, especially in congested conditions, societal costs due to air pollution and water quality degradation from pavement surface runoff, and other environmental costs related to noise, visibility, etc. Dr. Uddin notes a high correlation between a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and infrastructure stock, such as high GDP per capita versus high paved road density / high energy consumption per capita. Performance of the energy infrastructure asset is poor in developing countries (22% interruptions in electric power) compared to emerging economies (11% interruptions for middle income countries) and high income countries (6% power losses). He argues that renewable energy infrastructure development is important worldwide because of the adverse impacts of traditional fossil fuel-based energy production on the environment. Although the initial development and construction costs of renewable clean energy infrastructure assets -- including hydraulic, wind, and solar -- are high, his LCA evaluation indicates that there is high return on investment due to creation of new jobs and avoidance of societal costs of carbon emissions.

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