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On the Second-Law inconsistency of Emergy Analysis


  • Sciubba, Enrico


The paper argues against the claim made by Emergy Analysts that emergy is an exergy-based procedure. Both Emergy- and Exergy Analysis employ space- and time integrated energy input/output models to quantitatively assess the resource consumption of physical systems: the issue at stake is whether Emergy is embodied energy or embodied exergy. Although the compatibility of Exergy- and Emergy accounting procedures, the significance of the peculiar Emergy Algebra, and some cost-allocation issues have been studied in detail, a final agreement could not be reached, so that some doubt exists about the degree of compatibility of the two methods. The present paper shows that the definitions and the procedures employed in Emergy Analysis are in fact First Law-based, and that they neglect or misrepresent Second Law issues. This conclusion is reached by carefully reviewing and critically analyzing a series of general and specific procedures contained in the original Odum books and in some of the most representative publications by Emergy analysts.

Suggested Citation

  • Sciubba, Enrico, 2010. "On the Second-Law inconsistency of Emergy Analysis," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 3696-3706.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:energy:v:35:y:2010:i:9:p:3696-3706
    DOI: 10.1016/

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sciubba, Enrico & Ulgiati, Sergio, 2005. "Emergy and exergy analyses: Complementary methods or irreducible ideological options?," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(10), pages 1953-1988.
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    2. Rocco, M.V. & Colombo, E. & Sciubba, E., 2014. "Advances in exergy analysis: a novel assessment of the Extended Exergy Accounting method," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 1405-1420.
    3. Patterson, Murray & McDonald, Garry & Hardy, Derrylea, 2017. "Is there more in common than we think? Convergence of ecological footprinting, emergy analysis, life cycle assessment and other methods of environmental accounting," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 362(C), pages 19-36.
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    5. Jamali-Zghal, N. & Le Corre, O. & Lacarrière, B., 2014. "Mineral resource assessment: Compliance between emergy and exergy respecting Odum's hierarchy concept," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 272(C), pages 208-219.
    6. Sciubba, Enrico, 2011. "What did Lotka really say? A critical reassessment of the “maximum power principle”," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 222(8), pages 1347-1353.
    7. Patterson, Murray, 2014. "Evaluation of matrix algebra methods for calculating transformities from ecological and economic network data," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 271(C), pages 72-82.
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    9. Raugei, Marco & Rugani, Benedetto & Benetto, Enrico & Ingwersen, Wesley W., 2014. "Integrating emergy into LCA: Potential added value and lingering obstacles," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 271(C), pages 4-9.
    10. Henrik Lund & Finn Arler & Poul Alberg Østergaard & Frede Hvelplund & David Connolly & Brian Vad Mathiesen & Peter Karnøe, 2017. "Simulation versus Optimisation: Theoretical Positions in Energy System Modelling," Energies, MDPI, vol. 10(7), pages 1-17, June.
    11. Liao, Wenjie & Heijungs, Reinout & Huppes, Gjalt, 2012. "Thermodynamic analysis of human–environment systems: A review focused on industrial ecology," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 228(C), pages 76-88.
    12. Qingsong Wang & Hongkun Xiao & Qiao Ma & Xueliang Yuan & Jian Zuo & Jian Zhang & Shuguang Wang & Mansen Wang, 2020. "Review of Emergy Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment: Coupling Development Perspective," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(1), pages 1-13, January.
    13. Mohajeri, Nahid & Gudmundsson, Agust & Scartezzini, Jean-Louis, 2015. "Statistical-thermodynamics modelling of the built environment in relation to urban ecology," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 307(C), pages 32-47.
    14. Lucia, Umberto & Sciubba, Enrico, 2013. "From Lotka to the entropy generation approach," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 392(17), pages 3634-3639.
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    16. Lyu, Yanfeng & Raugei, Marco & Zhang, Xiaohong & Mellino, Salvatore & Ulgiati, Sergio, 2021. "Environmental cost and impacts of chemicals used in agriculture: An integration of emergy and Life Cycle Assessment," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).

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