Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)



Keywords: Life-cycle analysis, LCA, techno-economic analysis, TEA • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, return on investment (ROI) • SimaPro, GREET, GaBi • Energy policy, RFS2, LCFS


What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an analytical tool to quantify the environmental burdens - especially greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use - of a product, a process or a system throughout its entire life cycle including raw material extraction, manufacturing, transporting, recycling, etc.

What are the functions of LCA?

Life cycle results of a certain system will provide insights in identifying the most burdensome processes within the production system. By comparing the life cycle impacts of the product of an innovative technology with those of existing conventional technologies, the environmental performance of the proposed system can be evaluated.

What are important applications of LCA?

Energy policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) by the U.S. EPA and Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) by the California Air Resources Board are based on LCA principles. These policies integrate LCA model frameworks and LCA modeling results to provide guidelines for market players to account for carbon credits and tax incentives.

LCA examples 

  • Life cycle energy and GHG benefits of solar PV systems
  • Life cycle energy use and GHG benefits of algae-based biofuels


• Developers/integrators of renewable energy systems

• Biomass/Biofuel/biochemical producers and users

• Researchers, educators, regulators, and businesses interested in LCA

• Manufacturers of consumer products