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Are Renewables as Friendly to Humans as to the Environment?: A Social Life Cycle Assessment of Renewable Electricity

1
Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8306, Japan
2
Department of Urban and Environmental Engineering, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 819-0395, Japan
3
Extension School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1370; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11051370
Received: 8 February 2019 / Revised: 18 February 2019 / Accepted: 1 March 2019 / Published: 5 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Collection Sustainable Electric Power Systems Research)
The adoption of renewable energy technologies in developing nations is recognized to have positive environmental impacts; however, what are their effects on the electricity supply chain workers? This article provides a quantitative analysis on this question through a relatively new framework called social life cycle assessment, taking Malaysia as a case example. Impact assessments by the authors show that electricity from renewables has greater adverse impacts on supply chain workers than the conventional electricity mix: Electricity production with biomass requires 127% longer labor hours per unit-electricity under the risk of human rights violations, while the solar photovoltaic requires 95% longer labor hours per unit-electricity. However, our assessment also indicates that renewables have less impacts per dollar-spent. In fact, the impact of solar photovoltaic would be 60% less than the conventional mix when it attains grid parity. The answer of “are renewables as friendly to humans as to the environment?” is “not-yet, but eventually.” View Full-Text
Keywords: renewable energy; supply chain; social responsibility; social life cycle assessment; labor conditions; Malaysia; solar PV; Biomass; Hydro renewable energy; supply chain; social responsibility; social life cycle assessment; labor conditions; Malaysia; solar PV; Biomass; Hydro
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Takeda, S.; Keeley, A.R.; Sakurai, S.; Managi, S.; Norris, C.B. Are Renewables as Friendly to Humans as to the Environment?: A Social Life Cycle Assessment of Renewable Electricity. Sustainability 2019, 11, 1370.

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