Technoeconomic & Life-Cycle Modeling

Technoeconomic and Life-Cycle Modeling

Hanna Breunig uses her laptop in Building 90's boiler room.

Emerging Technology Assessment

We apply Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Technoeconomic Analysis (TEA) to a wide variety of established and emerging energy technologies and strategies. LCA is a method that can be used to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a product, material, process, or activity. TEA refers to cost assessments, including cost of production (minimum selling price at facility gate) and life-cycle cost (total cost of ownership, which may include monetized externalities) that require deep technical knowledge and a combination of engineering design and more traditional cash flow analyses.

These methods—in conjunction with other forms of decision analysis—help guide technology development and improvement targets, inform comparative pathway decisions, evaluate policy feasibility, and provide policy guidance through early identification and mitigation of financial or technical challenges. Our team conducts LCA and TEA of Low-TRL (Emerging) Technologies. We participate in a collaborative project with relevant experts (from DOE, National Labs, and U.S. and international universities) to develop methods and guidelines for applying LCA and TEA techniques and concepts to low-TRL (emerging) technologies in order to:

  • Accelerate technology maturation
  • Improve performance, costs, and minimize environmental impacts
  • Minimize unforeseen risks

Researchers at our International Energy Analysis Department have developed and continually refined detailed, bottom-up national energy end-use models to evaluate potential future pathways and road maps for two key countries with fast-growing energy demand: China and India.

Arman Shehabi and Sarah Smith discuss cross-cutting climate mitigation strategies

Emissions Mitigation Strategies and Scenarios

Climate change is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. Modeling cross-cutting climate mitigation strategies requires a breadth of sector knowledge and datasets. We continue to participate in modeling climate change mitigation efforts in California, where aggressive state goals have initiated a large set of complementary policies to reduce greenhouse emissions through 2050. We also contribute to national-level modeling efforts, where the focus has been on emission reductions from industrial sector manufacturing, transportation sector modeling, assessment of hydrogen technologies, and across-the-board greenhouse gas inventory assessment. We also conduct technology reviews and broad impact analysis for strategies with global impact, including low-carbon electricity generation technologies, low-carbon synthetic fuels, and reduction of high global warming potential refrigerants.

Economic and Environmental Analysis to Support Energy Efficiency Standards

Alison Williams, left, and Sanaee Iyama review energy efficiency standards on appliances and other equipment

To support DOE in evaluating and setting new or amended energy efficiency standards, we conduct a series of economic and environmental analyses. The aim is to develop standards that achieve the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified and will result in significant energy savings, as required by statute. Economic analyses we conduct include:

  • Markups analysis to relate the manufacturer production cost to the cost to the consumer
  • Energy and water use analysis to assess the annual use across a range of representative users of the product
  • Consumer life-cycle cost (LCC) and payback period (PBP) analyses to calculate, at the consumer level, the savings in operating costs compared to any increase in purchase and installation cost likely to result directly from a given standard
  • Shipments analysis (including quantitative consumer choice modeling) to forecast shipments of considered products
  • National impact analysis to assess standards impacts at the national level, as measured by the net present value of total consumer economic impacts and the national energy savings

To quantify the environmental impacts of potential amended energy conservation standards, we estimate direct and indirect impacts on emissions including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Where possible, emissions are translated into monetized damages (social costs) using a range of discount factors to facilitate comprehensive cost-benefit analyses.