Spanish power sector greenness rated

First LCA damns lignite burning, finds clear environmental lead for renewables except solar

Spain's Institute for Energy Saving and Diversification (IDAE), attached to the science and technology ministry, has published the country's first-ever life-cycle assessment (LCA) comparison of the environmental impact of the eight most important electricity-generating technologies.

Commissioned jointly by the ministry, four regional governments and the Association of Renewable Energy Producers, the study ranks the technologies according to negative environmental impact expressed as "eco-points". Lignite-fuelled power stations top the list with 1,735 points, nuclear power rates 672 points while, amongst renewables, mini-hydroelectric schemes score best at 5 points with wind power close behind at 65 points. Solar power generation, a sector boosted by a recent government initiative (ENDS Daily 2 October), fares relatively badly scoring 461 points.

"The figures provide ammunition for supporters of the current system of premiums to renewable energy, which has been under steady attack from conventional power generators since its introduction in 1997," according to Miguel Garcia Barquero of IDAE. The LCA will also put pressure on the central government to ensure a greater inclusion of environmental costs in the price structure of the electricity market before complete liberalisation is introduced in 2007. And it highlights the need to reduce dependence on the most polluting forms of electricity production given that Spain's carbon dioxide emissions have risen by 23% over the last decade.

The LCA used a Dutch life-cycle assessment computer model (SimaPro), but the data employed in the inventories and impact evaluation was, wherever possible, drawn from Spain. The costs of dismantling power stations were excluded from the calculations because of their complexity, the lack of data and the study's authors' declared intention to avoid penalising conventional systems of generation.

Follow Up:
IDAE, tel: +34 91 456 4900. The report: "Impactos Ambientales de la Producción Eléctrica" available from

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