The current energy transition will require a significant expansion of the global supply chain for critical materials needed for future renewable energy production. This includes maintaining or expanding existing mines, or opening new mines for a large number of materials, to their processing and use in manufacturing of equipment such as solar panels, wind turbines and batteries, to intercontinental shipping and installation, to operation and end-of-life disposal. All these activities not only increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also impact local air, land and water use and pollution. The current energy transition will touch all dimensions of the environment, social and governance (ESG) framework, which is a critical consideration for investors, publicly traded companies, and policymakers. As this transition accelerates, societies need to balance sustainable energy sources, while preserving environmental resources. 

The CEO study is a three phase, data-driven analysis of local and global environmental impacts, often called life-cycle analyses (LCAs). It is designed to provide information and tools that can help with supply chain and ESG risk management and with robust policy development. This study will add meaningful insight to these discussions, and contribute to the academic literature, which has been ahead of the mainstream media and policy discussions. Already, there is a large and growing number of peer-reviewed articles on LCAs of the various power generation technologies. However, most of these studies focus only on GHGs during operations, and largely ignore other environmental impacts, including local emissions; land and water use and pollution; and ecosystem services. This is especially the case along international upstream supply chains. We seek to add these important elements to the analyses and broader discussions. 

The resulting approach and model can highlight the tradeoffs and balance between society’s goals of mitigating climate change, improving local environments, and providing reliable and affordable electricity, while considering costs at both the system and end-user levels. In addition, these tools will highlight where innovation can add value to available options, while managing supply chain and ESG risks, inform policies that drive measurable improvement, and encourage optimal innovation and adoption.

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas

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