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Exploring the Biophysical Constraints and the Socio-Economic Implications of a Global Transition to Renewable Energy Systems


Project Description

Concerns have been raised that declining energy return on energy investment (EROI) from fossil fuels, and low levels of EROI for alternative energy sources, could constrain the ability of national economies to continue to deliver economic growth and improvements in social wellbeing while undertaking a low-carbon transition. Recent research conducted at the University of Leeds suggests that fossil fuels EROI may be actually lower than renewables, and we may be nearer a ‘net energy cliff’ than we thought, where the availability of net energy to the economy may go into a very sharp and serious decline. The PhD project will work to determine fully-temporal EROI values for renewables, assess the proximity to a societal-level net energy threshold, and the social-economic-policy impacts of transgression.

Funding Notes

This project is in competition for a 3.5 year EPSRC DTP 2020 Environment scholarship which will include tuition fees (£4,500 for 2019/20), tax-free stipend (£15,009 for 2019/20), and a research training and support grant.

References

[1] C. Hall, S. Balogh, and D. J. R. Murphy, “What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have?,” Energies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 25–47, Jan. 2009.
[2] D. J. Murphy and C. A. S. Hall, “Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth.,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1219, pp. 52–72, Feb. 2011.
[3] J. G. Lambert, C. A. S. Hall, and S. B. Balogh, “EROI of Global Energy Resources : Status, Trends and Social Implications,” New York. available at http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/pdf/outputs/Energy/60999-EROI_of_Global_Energy_Resources.pdf, 2013.
[4] M. R. Sers and P. A. Victor, “The Energy-missions Trap,” Ecological Economics, vol. 151, no. February, pp. 10–21, 2018.
[5] L. C. King and J. C. J. M. Van Den Bergh, “Implications of net energy-return-on-investment for a low-carbon energy transition,” Nature Energy, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 334–340, 2018.
[6] P. E. Brockway, A. Owen, L. I. Brand-Correa, and L. Hardt, “Estimation of global final-stage energy-return-on-investment for fossil fuels with comparison to renewable energy sources,” Nature Energy, vol. 4, no. 7, p. 612, Jul. 2019.
[7] I. Capellán-Pérez, C. de Castro, and L. J. Miguel González, “Dynamic Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) and material requirements in scenarios of global transition to renewable energies,” Energy Strategy Reviews, vol. 26, p. 100399, Nov. 2019.
[8] L. I. Brand-Correa, P. E. Brockway, C. L. Copeland, T. J. Foxon, A. Owen, and P. G. Taylor, “Developing an Input-Output Based Method to Estimate a National-Level Energy Return on Investment (EROI),” Energies, vol. 10, 534, p. 21, 2017.
[9] M. Raugei and E. Leccisi, “A comprehensive assessment of the energy performance of the full range of electricity generation technologies deployed in the United Kingdom,” Energy Policy, vol. 90, pp. 46–59, 2016.
[10] I. Kubiszewski, C. J. Cleveland, and P. K. Endres, “Meta-analysis of net energy return for wind power systems,” Renewable Energy, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 218–225, 2010.

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