Sustainability Assessment of Energy and Water Syner-generation in Remote Communities

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Jhud Mikhail Aberilla


This research has investigated the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of energy (electricity and heat for cooking) and water supply in remote island communities in the Philippines. Because of the intersections of production and consumption of energy and water, a syngergistic generation ("synergen") approach has been developed in this research. The current situation (2015) is defined and used as a basis to formulate future scenarios (2030) of the integrated electricity, cooking fuels and water supply mixes. Beginning with individual utility sectors, life cycle models of different technology options have been compiled and their environmental, economic and social impacts evaluated using life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC) and social sustainability indicators. Building upon these results, the overall sustainability of the different scenarios has been determined through multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). For the electricity sector, simulation and optimisation studies carried out in this work show that power requirements of rural households and communities can be met by multiple-source (hybrid) or fully renewable energy systems. Utilisation of waste agricultural biomass has the lowest environmental impacts, although its terrestrial ecotoxicity potential is higher than the other technologies. Moreover, it is found that energy storage and implementation scale (i.e. household vs community level) significantly affect the environmental sustainability of renewable energy options. The LCA of cooking fuels also suggests that utilisation of traditional biomass fuels for cooking (e.g. wood and crop residues) is the best option to mitigate climate change and other environmental impacts. However, these fuels have also the highest local health impacts due to particulate matter and smog formation. A self-sufficient fuel mix using local resources has the greatest reductions in life cycle impacts, but also has 11-28% higher local health impacts. On the other hand, a clean fuel mix dependent on liquefied petroleum gas and biogas can reduce local health impacts by 78-97% but has the worst impacts in five categories, including climate change. In the water supply mix, bottled water contributes to more than 50% of the environmental impacts despite providing only 3% of the supply. While natural freshwater sources are the best options, desalination will be required to manage water stress levels expected in the future. The sustainability of desalination is found to be significantly dependent on the electricity system that powers it. Integrated analysis of the three utilities shows that annual energy and water consumption in four-person households has a carbon footprint of 1.7 t CO2-eq. and a total cost of 2,944 USD. Of these, water supply is responsible for 54% and 90%, respectively. The environmental impacts in the business-as-usual scenario (BAU) are estimated to change by -40% to +63% relative to the current situation (depending on the category), while total costs are 82% higher. A future scenario with independent off-grid utility systems can achieve >12% reductions in impacts while reducing total costs by 92%. However, this will require a 21% greater capital investment. For social impacts, BAU is preferable for local health, employment and acceptability, while the Independent scenario has better scores in diversity and utilisation of local resources. Considering the environmental, economic and social domains, the MCDA suggests that a transition scenario operating between the BAU and Independent scenarios is the most sustainable option. This indicates that the trade-offs in the electricity, cooking fuel, and water supply in remote communities need to be balanced in order to achieve the sustainable development goals.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2020