Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1007/s11367-016-1057-1
Document Shareable Link
Title (Primary) When considering no man is an island—assessing bioenergy systems in a regional and LCA context: a review
Author O'Keeffe, S.; Majer, S.; Bezama, A.; Thrän, D.
Source Titel International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Year 2016
Volume 21
Issue 6
Page From 885
Page To 902
Language englisch
Keywords Bioenergy; Biomass; LCA; Regional; Spatial
UFZ wide themes RU6;


With many environmental burdens associated with bioenergy production occurring at the regional level, there is a need to produce more regional and spatially representative life cycle assessment of bioenergy systems. On the other hand, such assessments also need to account for the global and cumulative impacts along the full bioenergy life cycle in order to support effective regional policy measures and decision making. Therefore, the challenge is to find a balance. In other words, how should we define the regional context for bioenergy system assessments in order to complement life cycle thinking? The aim of this review is to answer this question by providing an overview of important considerations when assessing bioenergy systems in a regional and LCA context and how these two contexts intersect. It also aims to help guide and orientate LCA practitioners interested in including more regional aspects in their bioenergy studies. Until now, such a review which explores the integration of regional and life cycle contexts in relation to bioenergy systems and their products has not been done.


As a first step, we define what we mean by the term region. We then look at the potential burdens relating to bioenergy systems and their relationship with the regional context. In a next step, we explore life cycle thinking and the intersection between the regional and LCA contexts by providing some examples from the literature. We then discuss the benefits and limitations of such regionally contextualized life cycle approaches in relation to bioenergy production systems and indeed other alternative biomass uses.

Results and discussion

Three regional contexts were identified to help orientate life cycle thinking aiming to assess the regional and nonregional environmental implications of bioenergy production. These contexts were as follows: “within regional,” “regional and ROW,” and “regionalized.” The added value of implementing a regionally contextualized life cycle approach is the ability, therefore, to include greater regional and spatial details in the assessments of bioenergy production systems, without losing the links to the diversity of global supply chains. Thus, providing greater geographical and regional insight into how such potential burdens can be reduced or shifted burdens avoided or how associated regional production activities could be optimized to mitigate such burdens.


The use of different regional contexts as proposed in this paper is not only useful to orientate life cycle thinking in relation to bioenergy systems but also for the assessment of alternative novel bio-based systems.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
O'Keeffe, S., Majer, S., Bezama, A., Thrän, D. (2016):
When considering no man is an island—assessing bioenergy systems in a regional and LCA context: a review
Int. J. Life Cycle Assess. 21 (6), 885 - 902 10.1007/s11367-016-1057-1