Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of Alternative Energy Sources for the Western Australian Transport Sector
Keywordsalternative transport fuel
triple bottom line
life cycle approach
Environmental effects of industries and plants
Renewable energy sources
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AbstractEnvironmental obligation, fuel security, and human health issues have fuelled the search for locally produced sustainable transport fuels as an alternative to liquid petroleum. This study evaluates the sustainability performance of various alternative energy sources, namely, ethanol, electricity, electricity-gasoline hybrid, and hydrogen, for Western Australian road transport using a life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) framework. The framework employs 11 triple bottom line (TBL) sustainability indicators and uses threshold values for benchmarking sustainability practices. A number of improvement strategies were devised based on the hotspots once the alternative energy sources failed to meet the sustainability threshold for the determined indicators. The proposed framework effectively addresses the issue of interdependencies between the three pillars of sustainability, which was an inherent weakness of previous frameworks. The results show that the environment-friendly and socially sustainable energy options, namely, ethanol-gasoline blend E55, electricity, electricity-E10 hybrid, and hydrogen, would need around 0.02, 0.14, 0.10, and 0.71 AUD/VKT of financial support, respectively, to be comparable to gasoline. Among the four assessed options, hydrogen shows the best performance for the environmental and social bottom line when renewable electricity is employed for hydrogen production. The economic sustainability of hydrogen fuel is, however, uncertain at this stage due to the high cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs). The robustness of the proposed framework warrants its application in a wide range of alternative fuel assessment scenarios locally as well as globally.