Life-Cycle Analysis and Policy

Since our energy-efficiency solutions involve the interaction of many technologies, both electronic and mechanical, we need a framework from which to evaluate their overall energy or carbon footprint, as well as economic and policy mechanisms to encourage their use. Such a framework can be found in life cycle assessment (LCA) according to ISO 14040/44 (2006), the most mature and widely used method for quantitative and comprehensive environmental assessments of product systems. LCA quantifies the environmental impacts of product system across all its life cycle stages and across a wide range of impact categories. It is thus ideally equipped to determine the environmental benefits of energy-efficient computing strategies. This approach is a generalization of a previous collaboration between computer science and environmental science (Chong, Geyer), which focused on microchip reuse. Another critical issue is the economics of the energy-efficient strategies. Market-based, self-sustaining energy-saving strategies need to be profitable for the involved economic agents. Economic assessments of these strategies are thus necessary to gauge their market potential. To be profitable business propositions, strategies for adopting new technologies and practices may require novel business models, revenue structures, business relationships and supply chain contracts. There is now a significant body of literature dealing with the business aspects of closed-loop supply chains which will inform and guide our research and to which, in turn, we will contribute. Our aim is to identify and evaluate the business models required to profitably implement encourage adoption of energy-saving technologies. Such business models for energy efficiency need to be formulated and studied in the context of all pertinent laws and regulations, since they can significantly impact the feasibility and profitability of energy strategies. The EPA’s upcoming Energy Star rating system for servers and networking hardware are particularly relevant.

Greenscale works closely with the UCSB Bren School for Environmental Science and Management, which has several faculty (Geyer, Dozier, and Frew) active in LCA, policy, and economic research. Active research in these areas has been funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Research Council, the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, the International Iron and Steel Institute and the California Resources Agency.

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energy efficiency