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Sustainability Analysis

The laboratory's Sustainability Analysis looks at the environmental, life-cycle, climate, and other impacts of renewable energy technologies.

Our energy choices have global implications that affect greenhouse gas emissions, water resource distribution, mineral consumption, and equipment manufacturing and transportation. The school of thought is that renewable energy technologies are more sustainable than many current sources of energy. However, we need to verify that this is true before we miss some important opportunities.

NREL's capabilities in this analysis area include:

  • resource-use optimization
  • techno-economic feasibility and cost analysis
  • life cycle assessment
  • environmental externalities analysis
  • cobenefits analysis
  • manufacturing cost analysis
  • R&D targets and barrier identification
  • water requirements and distribution analysis.

Renewables are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Resources are geographically distributed and energy-use patterns vary worldwide. Growth rate and installed infrastructure also may limit choices. We need to determine how to economically optimize the use of geographically distributed resources.

Sustainability analysis has three main components: environmental effects, externalities costs, and economics and financing. Through our analysis, we are attempting to answer one key question: What are the sustainability metrics for blends of technologies that are available to meet different energy needs, given varying resource availabilities and development status?

Key Projects

Analysts at NREL are looking at these issues using several different methodologies and major focuses worldwide. Key analyses include:

You can find out more about each analysis area by accessing the links above; more general information is offered below.

More Information

Related publications

Related models/tools

Access more information on all of our Staff Analysts