Quantitative model-based assessment of global socio-ecological challenges and opportunities of the transition to Power-to-X: Case study for the aviation sector
Power-to-X (PtX) is currently being discussed as a way to defossilize the transport sector and reduce its impact on the climate with synthetic fuels. The potential social and ecological impacts beyond global warming potential (GWP) are often neglected in this context. This work aims at identifying the social and ecological challenges and opportunities that could arise from a transition to PtX by integrating life cycle assessment (LCA) and social LCA (S-LCA) into a global model. The underlying idea is that the transition to alternative fuels for reducing CO2 emissions should at least not result in a deterioration of sustainability in other important areas. Fossil and bio-based jet fuels are integrated as benchmarks with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a normative framework. The SDGs are globally accepted and cover the most important aspects of sustainability around the world. Each SDG is linked to at least one indicator of the S-LCA or LCA or additional values and then addressed individually in this approach. It is not assumed that fuel production alone can lead to the achievement of the SDGs, but it can have negative and positive impacts on them. The risks and potential impacts are analyzed on a global scale with modeled PtX constellations for each country/region with country-specific conditions for wind and solar energy. It is assessed how many of the PtX constellations can reach the fossil and bio-based benchmarks, where geographical hot spots might arise, and which SDGs would be affected the most (positively and negatively). In addition, a 2050 scenario is integrated to account for potential changes in technologies and costs.