Date of Graduation

8-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Chemical Engineering

Advisor

Greg Thoma

Committee Member

Alvaro Durand-Morat

Second Committee Member

Robert Beitle

Third Committee Member

Jamie Hestekin

Fourth Committee Member

Geoboo Song

Abstract

Evaluating the global environmental impacts of the current and future energy policies in Saudi Arabia using Life cycle assessment (LCA) method was the main objective of this dissertation. First, the attributional life cycle assessment (ALCA) framework was used to evaluate the Saudi’s air conditioning systems, as they are responsible for about 70% of the total Saudi residential electricity consumption. The ALCA’s results showed that the AC use phase produces the largest share of the environmental impact and the magnitude of the environmental impacts is influenced by the type of primary fuel used for electricity generation.

Emerging non-fossil sources of electricity may be the intuitive solution to reduce environmental impacts. Saudi Arabia has an ambitious plan to meet 50% of its electricity needs with renewable and nuclear energy. Implementing this plan will free up more of the Saudi oil for export, affecting the country and the rest of the world, since Saudi is the world largest oil exporter. To predict global economic shifts that would be triggered by that plan, a modified version of well-known computable general equilibrium (CGE) model, the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP), was used. The study showed that fossil fuel energy prices and ease of substitution for the fossil fuel electricity technologies are the main drivers for the emergence of renewable and nuclear energy.

As the GTAP’s CO2 emissions data only account for burned fossil fuels, there is a need to perform the study using a comprehensive method. That was done by performing a consequential perspective LCA. The results of this LCA showed that harmful environmental impacts would be reduced in Saudi Arabia. For the rest of the world, the impacts were largely negative.

Finally, an ex-ante analysis was done to study the economic, social and environmental impacts of large-scale global electricity generation targets to utilize renewable and nuclear energy by 2030. The study showed a deteriorated GDP in most regions. The world would face a loss of 4.45 million jobs. The environment benefits of the targeted renewable and nuclear energy would be slight and not enough to mitigate the global temperature rise.

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