Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1186/s13705-024-00462-3
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) Environmental trade-offs of (de)centralized renewable electricity systems
Author Reutter, F.; Lehmann, P.
Source Titel Energy, Sustainability and Society
Year 2024
Department OEKON
Volume 14
Page From art. 37
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Keywords Renewable electricity systems; Spatio-technical (de)centralization options; Environmental trade-offs; Germany
Abstract Background
Renewable energies are key to reduce CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts of fossil-fueled electricity generation. However, renewable energy systems can also cause negative environmental effects. In this paper, we analyze the potential environmental trade-offs associated with different spatio-technical (de)centralization options for a renewable electricity system. For this purpose, we first review the potential environmental life cycle impacts of key technologies for renewable electricity systems. Subsequently, we develop a framework identifying which factors determine actual environmental effects of renewable electricity systems. We apply the framework to four basic spatio-technical (de)centralization options for the future Germany electricity system.

Our analysis shows that all (de)centralization options are associated with potential environmental trade-offs. We find that the (de)centralization of the system is a relevant factor determining these trade-offs. For instance, the two more centralized options considered have lower environmental impacts related to PV, whereas the two more decentralized options have lower environmental impacts related to grid infrastructure. However, we also find that the trade-offs depend on the specific way (de)centralization is pursued. For instance, only in one of the two considered more decentralized development options, there is a potential environmental trade-off between higher impacts related to battery storage and lower impacts related to offshore wind power.

Our analysis reveals that the spatio-technical (de)centralization of a renewable electricity system plays a role for its environmental trade-offs while further factors like the institutional and stakeholder management in place also shape the environmental trade-offs. Policy makers should acknowledge the identified potential environmental trade-offs and their influencing factors when making policies favoring certain spatio-technical (de)centralization options.
Persistent UFZ Identifier
Reutter, F., Lehmann, P. (2024):
Environmental trade-offs of (de)centralized renewable electricity systems
Energy Sustain. Soc. 14 , art. 37 10.1186/s13705-024-00462-3