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Research activities at this Laboratory aim to improve the design of complex sustainable systems by understanding and modelling relationships between population dynamics, energy and materials use, ecosystem services, environmental impacts of human activities and economic growth.
The ultimate goal is to promote a holistic view of engineering systems which requires the development of a set of tools to bridge different scales, from site or product specific analysis, to the whole economy and ranging across the economic, the social and the environmental dimensions, thus resulting in a multi-disciplinary set of analytical tools, whose development and extension will be a continuous goal for the future. These tools will be used to design and promote new policy instruments that may contribute to improve the environmental performance of products and services through their life-cycles, as well as more efficient economic metabolisms at different scales. Cooperation with industry and governments gives rise to innovations in sustainable buildings, in designing more efficient renewable energy-based systems, including intelligent transportation systems and in managing ecosystem services.
The ultimate goals for this Laboratory include:
Laboratory of Industrial Ecology and Sustainability: 2011-2012
Theme 3: Energy Planning
High fuel costs, increasing energy security and concerns with reducing emissions have pushed governments to invest in the use of renewable energies for electricity generation. However, the intermittence of most renewable resources when renewable energy provides a significant share of the energy mix can create problems to electricity grids, which can be minimized by energy storage systems that are usually not available or expensive. An alternative solution consists on the use of “demand side management strategies”, which can have the double effect of reducing electricity consumption and allowing greater efficiency and flexibility in the grid management, namely by enabling a better match between supply and demand (Pina, Silva and Ferrão, 2012).
However, making use of renewable energies and “demand side management strategies” requires advanced energy systems modelling capacities, which were developed at IN+ in several studies (Abreu, Pereira and Ferrão, 2012; Suomalainen, Silva, Ferrão and Connors, 2012). They ranged from synthetic wind speed models, to global energy system models with emphasys on upgrading the “TIMES model” to a high temporal resolution, compatible with hourly renewable energy fluctuations (Souza, Pina, Leal and Silva, 2012). We developed the capacity to model renewable energy including the operation of wind and hydro plants together with energy use scenarios, deployment of demand response technologies in the domestic sector and behavioral changes to eliminate standby power. The results obtained show that “demand side management strategies” can lead to a significant delay in the investment on new generation capacity from renewable resources and improve the operation of the existing installed capacity (Pina, Silva and Ferrão, 2012).
Theme 4: Urban Metabolism and Sustainable Cities (UMSC); Industrial ecology
Major urban areas in the world are facing huge changes in land use and on their interaction with the environment, mainly due to increased levels of economic development, resulting in most cases in a huge urban sprawl and changes in their form. This clearly establishes an intertwining between economy, environment and quality of life at an urban level, whose understanding requires a new set of tools that may correlate the use of natural resources, economic activities and consumption patterns (Niza, Rosado, and Ferrão, 2009).
The urban metabolism concept is grounded on the analogy with the metabolism of living organisms’, as cities can transform raw materials into infrastructures, human biomass and waste. It quantifies the amount of materials that are consumed by each economic activity in urban areas. We have developed a set of new methods for quantifying urban metabolism making use of national statistical data publicly available and scaling it down to an urban level (Marteleira, Pinto and Niza, 2012).
Considerable advances were achieved aiming to develop straightforward methodologies to model the urban metabolism of world urban regions. The Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA) was the main case study for the validation of the methodology supported by EU and national statistical data. Aditional studies for urban sustainability include the uncovering of opportunities for industrial simbiosys in the LMA and rainwater reuse in builidings (Patricio, Costa and Niza, 2013).
Theme 5: Ecological Economics
Research in Ecological Economics had results in three main lines, as follows:
1. The theoretical work on fair indicators of carbon responsibility developed in Rodrigues et al. (2006, 2008) was empirically applied. Patterns of international flows of carbon responsibility were identified, through the development and use of a “Multi-Regional Input-Output model” (Marques et al., 2012, Marques et al., 2013) and the concept of income responsibility was clarified (Marques et al., 2012).
2. Life cycle assessment of bioenergy solutions were carried out, in a consequential perspective, including the effects of direct and indirect land used change (Gonçalves et al., 2013).
3. Environmental impacts of the internet were estimated (Coroama et al., 2013; Müller et al., 2013).
Theme 6: Ecological Metabolism
Research work on ecological metabolism was continued, both from the theoretical and modelling point of view, based on DEB theory (Saraiva et al., 2011a,b), and from the empirical point of view (Yuan et al., 2011). Carbon cycle measurements and modelling were carried out for two pools (soil, trees) in two systems: eucalyptus forest (Pita et al., 2011; Rodrigues et al., 2011); sown biodiverse permanent pastures rich in legumes (Teixeira et al., 2011). The latter work led to the establishment of “Terraprima – Environmental Services”, a spin-off at IST, which now manages carbon sequestration contracts with around 1000 farmers and c. 100 000 ha (>1% of the country).
Theme 7: Waste characterization and management: physical and chemical processing
Substantial research efforts have been dedicated to recycling and valorisation of residues, which required spread knowledge in several domains, including materials characterisation, physical-chemical and environmental analysis, physical separation (minerallurgical and other related techniques), chemical and metallurgical engineering, modelling, process development and design. Besides the characterization of secondary resources, natural raw materials have also been studied taking into account related interfaces with the environment (Madrid, Nogueira and Margarido, 2012).
Mais areas of specialization include recycling processes of metallic residues in the scope of mercury removal from waste sources (Margarido and Nogueira, 2011), recycling of sealed Ni-Cd and Zn-Mn type batteries (Nogueira and Margarido, 2012), valorisation of residues from military activities, and waste of electric and electronic equipment, among other waste streams (Nogueira and Margarido, 2012).
LABORATORY OF INDUSTRIAL ECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABILITY
Brief Plan of Activities for 2013-2014
Integrated models of environment-energy-economy interaction will be developed, at multiple spatial scales (cities, regions, countries), using models such as input-output, computable general equilibrium models, and economic growth. These will be used to support policy making on sustainable use of energy and raw materials in general, and regional, urban and rural sustainability planning in particular. Based on these models, work will be carried out in the development of sustainability assessment tools and indicators, e.g. Green GDP, ecological footprint and human appropriation of net primary production.
Given the past experience of this laboratory’s research team, particular focus will be given to the environmental themes of solid waste, greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration.
Urban metabolism will deserve particular attention, focusing on developing spatially comprehensive and temporally broad physical models of resource consumption of urban centers. Additionally, energy and materials consumption in buildings and new and innovative solutions to promote the concept of "Sustainable Buildings" will be studied.
In the context of the sustainable energy systems, which will constitute a major research area, the design of future intelligent energy and transportation systems which are "green", "smart", and "efficient", requires an understanding of a region's current systems, including detailed characterizations of its energy networks, supplies, and demands, and of the main factors influencing the evolution of those supplies and demands, including multiple renewable resources, and socio-economic and behavioral dynamics.
A major research topic is the development of models to facilitate the penetration and integration of forms of renewable energies. The need to foster aggressive energy efficiency end-uses introduces a new set of issues in energy systems planning that the current tools are not able to answer. This includes developing models that resolve the hourly dynamics of renewable resources in order to evaluate accurately the match between demand and supply; it is necessary to include the demand dynamics to evaluate accurately the impact of demand side management strategies like load shedding or load shifting. In parallel, operational NWP (Numerical Weather Prediction) models for Portugal will continue to be used in forecasting availability from wind power plants. Progressively, these two lines of work will be integrated.
Environmental modeling will address multiple ecosystem services and their integration in land planning issues, at the city, municipal, regional and landscape scales, incorporating detailed climatic information from the ongoing climatic reconstruction of a normal climatological series (1979-2009) at high spatial resolution (better than 9 km) based on the most recent global reanalysis originated in the USA (~40km resolution).
Main Background Publications to support the proposed plan: