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LCA Harmonization Project

July 30, 2012

The Journal of Industrial Ecology published a special issue titled "Meta-Analysis of Life Cycle Assessments" showcasing seven NREL articles on life cycle assessment (LCA) harmonization. Garvin Heath and Margaret Mann led this NREL project, which included systematic review of estimates of life cycle GHG emissions from electricity generation technologies published between 1970 and 2010. LCAs consider emissions from all stages in the life cycle of an electricity generation technology, from component manufacturing to operation of the generation facility to its decommissioning, and include acquisition, processing, and transport of any required fuels. For selected technologies, a meta-analytical procedure called "harmonization" was applied to adjust estimates so that they were methodologically more consistent and therefore more comparable. This was done to reduce variability and clarify central tendency in the estimate of life cycle GHG emissions so that more robust decisions can be made and other analyses relying on such estimates can be strengthened.

To coincide with the special issue of the magazine, NREL launched a new project page on and an LCA application on OpenEI. The application allows for a customized visualization of summary statistics and the underlying published estimates collected for each technology, as well as companion harmonized estimates.

NREL's harmonization work has been featured in several recent publications and blogs, including Energy Central Professional, Eco-Business, Energy-Enviro Finland, ThomasNet News, Earth Techling, and Jonathan Koomey's blog. NREL has also been contacted by the Environment & Energy Policy committee for the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and DNV (Det Norske Veritas) KEMA for assistance with interpretation of the analysis and results for their organizations and contexts.

—Jim Leyshon