Our electricity-generating systems are in the process of being overhauled. It is very much a case of out with the old and in with the new as the OECD turns its back on coal. The OECD envisions decarbonizing electricity generation using a combination of wind power, solar power, and biomass instead. Focusing on CO2 intensity alone has led to a number of bizarre outcomes such as transporting wood pellets from North America to Europe for industrial-scale power generation; covering hilltops with wind turbines; and fields with solar panels. It is difficult to find an environmental reason in these measures. Researchers at ETH Zurich wanted to develop a more holistic approach to characterize various generating technologies, but they were confronted with a challenge. How does one compare nuclear power with wind and coal power? This is like comparing apples with barley and potatoes. Multi-criteria decision analysis offered researchers a means of quantifying all of the relevant information for the task. They began with the three pillars of sustainable development:
- Class 1: Electricity that is produced when we want to use it.
- Class 2: Electricity that is produced when we do not want to use it.
- Class 3: Electricity that is not produced when we want to use it.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.