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Open Access Original

Sustainability assessment of energy technologies: towards an integrative framework

Armin Grunwald* and Christine Rösch

Author Affiliations

Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Helmholtz Platz 1, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

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Energy, Sustainability and Society 2011, 1:3  doi:10.1186/2192-0567-1-3

Published: 21 November 2011

Abstract

To be able to design and use energy technologies with regard to the needs of sustainable development, sustainability assessments are necessary prior to the respective decisions. However, as is known, they pose methodological problems: from the difficulties of anticipation of future developments via the determination of assessment criteria through to the necessity to define sustainable development accurately enough. In this contribution, we will introduce an integrative sustainability concept which has hardly been discussed in the energy context. We will analyse this concept with respect to deriving general principles for the sustainability assessment of energy technologies. As a case study, we consider in particular the field of the use of grassland for biomass production for energetic purposes. The integrative concept is shown to provide an overall framework to carry out comprehensible and, above all, comparative sustainability assessments. More or less as a by-product, it can be demonstrated that sustainability means also in the energy sector much more than just environmental compatibility.

Keywords:
energy futures; sustainability assessment; energy policy; grassland