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Special Issue "The Energy-Sustainability Nexus"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Thomas L. Theis

Institute for Environmental Science and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2121 West Taylor Street, MC 673 Chicago, IL 60612, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: mathematical modeling and systems analysis of environmental processes; industrial pollution prevention; industrial ecology; the environmental chemistry of trace organic and inorganic substances; interfacial reactions; subsurface contaminant transport; hazardous waste management

Special Issue Information

Dear colleague,

This special issue of Sustainability explores the complex interrelationships between society's need for energy and the ongoing quest for a sustainable world. This involves energy production, human and ecosystem health, pollution prevention, resource allocation and associated economic factors, patterns of consumption, policy development, and regulatory approaches. Papers that cross over among two or more of these aspects aspects are especially sought. Papers can provide comprehensive reviews of the latest technological developments, or can address a variety of topics such as life cycle assessment of energy systems, schemes for the integration of human activities with the natural environment, processes or designs for resilient human-engineered systems, analyses of human behavior in relation to product or energy use, and best management practices.

Dr. Thomas L. Theis
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).

Keywords

  • sustainability
  • energy
  • sustainable systems
  • integrative science
  • resilience
  • life cycle assessment

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle A Framework for Defining Sustainable Energy Transitions: Principles, Dynamics, and Implications
Sustainability 2014, 6(5), 2601-2622; doi:10.3390/su6052601
Received: 19 November 2013 / Revised: 18 April 2014 / Accepted: 22 April 2014 / Published: 2 May 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1036 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
While partial energy transitions have been observed in the past, the complete transition of a fossil-based energy system to a sustainable energy one is historically unprecedented on a large scale. Switching from an economy based on energy stocks to one based on energy
[...] Read more.
While partial energy transitions have been observed in the past, the complete transition of a fossil-based energy system to a sustainable energy one is historically unprecedented on a large scale. Switching from an economy based on energy stocks to one based on energy flows requires a social paradigm shift. This paper defines Sustainable Energy Transition (SET) and introduces a set of five propositions that prescribe its sustainability. The propositions are comprehensive, spanning environmental constraints, resource availability, equity, and the transition dynamics from an energy and economic accounting perspective aimed at addressing all three pillars of sustainability. In order to rigorously define the constraints of SET a theoretical energy economy framework is introduced along with the concept of the renewable energy investment ratio. The paper concludes with a practical application of the SET propositions on the global energy system and identifies an order of magnitude underinvestment in the renewable energy investment ratio in comparison to the estimated level needed for a controlled transition that satisfies all propositions. The option of drastically increasing this ratio in the future may not be available as it would reduce societally available energy, imposing unacceptably high energy prices that would induce either fossil resource extraction beyond the safely recoverable resources or energy poverty. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
Open AccessArticle Review of Potential Characterization Techniques in Approaching Energy and Sustainability
Sustainability 2014, 6(3), 1489-1503; doi:10.3390/su6031489
Received: 8 January 2014 / Revised: 27 February 2014 / Accepted: 7 March 2014 / Published: 20 March 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (508 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Societal prosperity is linked to sustainable energy and a healthy environment. However, tough global challenges include increased demand for fossil fuels, while approaching peak oil production and uncertainty in the environmental impacts of energy generation. Recently, energy use was identified as a major
[...] Read more.
Societal prosperity is linked to sustainable energy and a healthy environment. However, tough global challenges include increased demand for fossil fuels, while approaching peak oil production and uncertainty in the environmental impacts of energy generation. Recently, energy use was identified as a major component of economic productivity, along with capital and labor. Other environmental resources and impacts may be nearing environmental thresholds, as indicated by nine planetary environmental boundaries, many of which are linked to energy production and use. Foresight techniques could be applied to guide future actions which include emphasis on (1) energy efficiency to bridge the transition to a renewable energy economy; (2) continued research, development, and assessment of new technologies; (3) improved understanding of environment impacts including natural capital use and degradation; (4) exploration of GDP alternative measures that include both economic production and environmental impacts; and (5) international cooperation and awareness of longer-term opportunities and their associated potential scenarios. Examples from the U.S. and the international community illustrate challenges and potential. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
Open AccessArticle Implementation of Brackish Groundwater Desalination Using Wind-Generated Electricity: A Case Study of the Energy-Water Nexus in Texas
Sustainability 2014, 6(2), 758-778; doi:10.3390/su6020758
Received: 18 November 2013 / Revised: 13 January 2014 / Accepted: 26 January 2014 / Published: 10 February 2014
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (2937 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Growing populations and periodic drought conditions have exacerbated water stress in many areas worldwide. In response, some municipalities have considered desalination of saline water as a freshwater supply. Unfortunately, desalination requires a sizeable energy investment. However, renewable energy technologies can be paired with
[...] Read more.
Growing populations and periodic drought conditions have exacerbated water stress in many areas worldwide. In response, some municipalities have considered desalination of saline water as a freshwater supply. Unfortunately, desalination requires a sizeable energy investment. However, renewable energy technologies can be paired with desalination to mitigate concern over the environmental impacts of increased energy use. At the same time, desalination can be operated in an intermittent way to match the variable availability of renewable resources. Integrating wind power and brackish groundwater desalination generates a high-value product (drinking water) from low-value resources (saline water and wind power without storage). This paper presents a geographically-resolved performance and economic method that estimates the energy requirements and profitability of an integrated wind-powered reverse osmosis facility treating brackish groundwater. It is based on a model that incorporates prevailing natural and market conditions such as average wind speeds, total dissolved solids content, brackish well depth, desalination treatment capacity, capital and operation costs of wind and desalination facilities, brine disposal costs, and electricity and water prices into its calculation. The model is illustrated using conditions in Texas (where there are counties with significant co-location of wind and brackish water resources). Results from this case study indicate that integrating wind turbines and brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) systems is economically favorable in a few municipal locations in West Texas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
Open AccessArticle Life-Cycle Analysis of Building Retrofits at the Urban Scale—A Case Study in United Arab Emirates
Sustainability 2014, 6(1), 453-473; doi:10.3390/su6010453
Received: 2 December 2013 / Revised: 7 January 2014 / Accepted: 13 January 2014 / Published: 22 January 2014
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (647 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A consensus is forming among experts that the best way to achieve emissions’ reduction in the near and mid-term is increasing the demand-side energy efficiency—this is especially true in developing countries where the potential for demand reduction is significant and achievable at relatively
[...] Read more.
A consensus is forming among experts that the best way to achieve emissions’ reduction in the near and mid-term is increasing the demand-side energy efficiency—this is especially true in developing countries where the potential for demand reduction is significant and achievable at relatively lower cost. Enhanced energy efficiency also reduces energy costs and can result in a financial benefit to end-users, if the life-cycle value of energy savings offsets the upfront cost of implementing the measure. At the same time, reducing energy demand translates into lower pull for fossil fuel import and supply/distribution capacity expansion. An ideal candidate for the implementation of demand-side energy efficiency measures is the building sector, since it contributes to a large extent to the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted worldwide. In most developing countries, the contribution of the building sector to the total national GHG emissions is significantly higher than the worldwide average. This is in part due to the lower level of industrial activity. Other drivers of the high emissions of the building sector are the inefficiency of the envelope and technical systems of the existing buildings, as well as harsh climatic conditions requiring the use of energy intensive air-conditioning equipment. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) currently have the highest ecological footprint per capita in the world. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the focus of this study, can be expected to have a footprint that is even higher, being the largest economy and the major oil producer among the seven Emirates. In addition to the environmental consequences of unrestrained energy consumption, the fact that energy prices are heavily subsidized in Abu Dhabi results in a significant financial burden for the government. In the UAE and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the air-conditioning load in buildings is the ideal target for demand-side management because it constitutes more than 60% of the total energy consumption. However, many sources of uncertainty still remain. How should we assess the life-cycle cost/benefit of candidate demand-side interventions? Which ones to choose in order to maximize national utility? This study will start to answer those questions by using a detailed engineering model of a typical Abu Dhabi building as specified by the Emirate’s Urban Planning Council. Using the model building as a baseline, we then proceed to evaluate the energy impact of different retrofits through numerical simulation. We present a novel Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi focusing exclusively on demand-side measures having an impact on the air-conditioning load. A surprising number of the abatement levers analyzed in this study exhibit a positive net present value (NPV), if the cost-reflective price of electricity is used for the life-cycle assessment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
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Open AccessArticle The Water Demand of Energy: Implications for Sustainable Energy Policy Development
Sustainability 2013, 5(11), 4674-4687; doi:10.3390/su5114674
Received: 26 August 2013 / Revised: 23 October 2013 / Accepted: 24 October 2013 / Published: 5 November 2013
Cited by 16 | PDF Full-text (433 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
With energy security, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development as three main motives, global energy policies have evolved, now asking for higher shares of renewable energies, shale oil and gas resources in the global energy supply portfolios. Yet, concerns have recently been raised
[...] Read more.
With energy security, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development as three main motives, global energy policies have evolved, now asking for higher shares of renewable energies, shale oil and gas resources in the global energy supply portfolios. Yet, concerns have recently been raised about the environmental impacts of the renewable energy development, supported by many governments around the world. For example, governmental ethanol subsidies and mandates in the U.S. are aimed to increase the biofuel supply while the water footprint of this type of energy might be 70–400 times higher than the water footprint of conventional fossil energy sources. Hydrofracking, as another example, has been recognized as a high water-intensive procedure that impacts the surface and ground water in both quality and quantity. Hence, monitoring the water footprint of the energy mix is significantly important and could have implications for energy policy development. This paper estimates the water footprint of current and projected global energy policies, based on the energy production and consumption scenarios, developed by the International Energy Outlook of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The outcomes reveal the amount of water required for total energy production in the world will increase by 37%–66% during the next two decades, requiring extensive improvements in water use efficiency of the existing energy production technologies, especially renewables. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability after the Thermal Energy Supply in Emergency Situations: The Case Study of Abruzzi Earthquake (Italy)
Sustainability 2013, 5(8), 3513-3525; doi:10.3390/su5083513
Received: 9 July 2013 / Revised: 2 August 2013 / Accepted: 5 August 2013 / Published: 14 August 2013
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (1126 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Recent natural and human-induced emergencies have highlighted the vulnerability of the built environment. In order to immediately answer to people’s needs while managing an emergency, any intervention should be more proactive and take into account renewable technologies that can be applied in anemergency
[...] Read more.
Recent natural and human-induced emergencies have highlighted the vulnerability of the built environment. In order to immediately answer to people’s needs while managing an emergency, any intervention should be more proactive and take into account renewable technologies that can be applied in anemergency situation. Very few examples of renewable energy systems in emergency situations are presented in the literature and this gap needs to be filled. This paper presents the results of a project on Storage Integrated Solar Thermal Collectors, specifically studied for this kind of situations, carried out during the post-emergency and rehabilitation phases, after the earthquake in Abruzzi (2009). The overall objective of the project was to promote the advance and innovation of sustainable energy systems for the participatory use of renewable sources in post-emergency and rehabilitation phases. To raise the awareness and study the impact on social perception of renewable energy use, a special program was launched by CIRPS (Inter University Research Center on Sustainable Development of “Sapienza” University of Rome) along with L’Aquila municipality within the local population, just a few days after the earthquake. A “learning by doing” methodology was applied to carry out a participatory project, involving the local population and civil society organizations. Conclusions about the analysis of the project outcomes are presented and a set of measures aiming at increasing the renewable energy rates of displaced camps and rehabilitation phase are finally proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
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