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Open AccessArticle

System Energy Assessment (SEA), Defining a Standard Measure of EROI for Energy Businesses as Whole Systems

1
HDS Systems Design Science, Synapse9.com, New York, NY 10040, USA
2
Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713, USA
3
LBJ School of Public Affairs & College of Natural Sciences, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2011, 3(10), 1908-1943; https://doi.org/10.3390/su3101908
Received: 10 January 2010 / Revised: 12 October 2010 / Accepted: 12 November 2010 / Published: 17 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment))
A more objective method for measuring the energy needs of businesses, System Energy Assessment (SEA), measures the combined impacts of material supply chains and service supply chains, to assess businesses as whole self-managing net-energy systems. The method is demonstrated using a model Wind Farm, and defines a physical measure of their energy productivity for society (EROI-S), a ratio of total energy delivered to total energy expended. Energy use records for technology and proxy measures for clearly understood but not individually recorded energy uses for services are combined for a whole system estimate of consumption required for production. Current methods count only energy needs for technology. Business services outsource their own energy needs to operate, leaving no traceable record. That uncounted business energy demand is often 80% of the total, an amount of “dark energy” hidden from view, discovered by finding the average energy estimated needs for businesses far below the world average energy consumed per dollar of GDP. Presently for lack of information the energy needs of business services are counted to be “0”. Our default assumption is to treat them as “average”. The result is a hard measure of total business demand for energy services, a “Scope 4” energy use or GHG impact assessment. Counting recorded energy uses and discounting unrecorded ones misrepresents labor intensive work as highly energy efficient. The result confirms a similar finding by Hall et al. in 1981 [1]. We use exhaustive search for what a business needs to operate as a whole, tracing internal business relationships rather than energy data, to locate its natural physical boundary as a working unit, and so define a business as a physical rather than statistical subject of scientific study. See also online resource materials and notes [2]. View Full-Text
Keywords: physical measurement; EROI; natural systems; net energy; energy economics; outsourcing; system boundaries; life cycle assessment physical measurement; EROI; natural systems; net energy; energy economics; outsourcing; system boundaries; life cycle assessment
MDPI and ACS Style

Henshaw, P.F.; King, C.; Zarnikau, J. System Energy Assessment (SEA), Defining a Standard Measure of EROI for Energy Businesses as Whole Systems. Sustainability 2011, 3, 1908-1943.

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