Life cycle assessment of the transmission network in Great Britain
Analysis of lower carbon power systems has tended to focus on the operational carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power stations. However, to achieve the large cuts required it is necessary to understand the whole-life contribution of all sectors of the electricity industry. Here, a preliminary assessment of the life cycle carbon emissions of the transmission network in Great Britain is presented. Using a 40-year period and assuming a static generation mix it shows that the carbon equivalent emissions (or global warming potential) of the transmission network are around 11Â gCO2-eq/kWh of electricity transmitted and that almost 19 times more energy is transmitted by the network than is used in its construction and operation. Operational emissions account for 96% of this with transmission losses alone totalling 85% and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) emissions featuring significantly. However, the CO2 embodied within the raw materials of the network infrastructure itself represents a modest 3%. Transmission investment decisions informed by whole-life cycle carbon assessments of network design could balance higher financial and carbon 'capital' costs of larger conductors with lower transmission losses and CO2 emissions over the network lifetime. This will, however, necessitate new regulatory approaches to properly incentivise transmission companies.
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