Geothermal energy could play a crucial role in the European energy market and future scenarios focused on sustainable development. Thanks to its constant supply of concentrated energy, it can support the transition towards a low-carbon economy. In the energy sector, the decision-making process should always be supported by a holistic science-based approach to allow a comprehensive environmental assessment of the technological system, such as the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology.
In the geothermal sector, the decision-making is particularly difficult due to the large variability of reported results on environmental performance across studies. This calls for harmonized guidelines on how to conduct LCAs of geothermal systems to enhance transparency and results comparability, by ensuring consistent methodological choices and providing indications for harmonized results reporting. This work identifies the main critical aspects of performing an LCA of geothermal systems and provides solutions and technical guidance to harmonize its application. The proposed methodological approach is based on experts’ knowledge from both the geothermal and LCA sectors.
The recommendations cover all the life cycle phases of geothermal energy production (i.e., construction, operation, maintenance and end of life) as well as a selection of LCA key elements thus providing a thorough base for concerted LCA guidelines for the geothermal sector. The application of such harmonized LCA framework can ensure comparability among LCA results from different geothermal systems and other renewable energy technologies.