Life cycle analysis (LCA)
OVERVIEW AND CHALLENGES
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is an assessment method aimed at quantifying the environmental impacts of a product or a service, as part of an eco-design approach or with a view to selecting the optimal solution. All the potential impacts on the environment are quantified and the consumption of resources is examined, from extraction of raw materials to treatment of waste (“from cradle to grave”).
It is therefore a global, multi-step and multi-criteria approach, governed by a standard (ISO 14040-44) and recommended by the European Union. LCA developed rapidly from the 1980s and it is now used by:
- international, European and national public bodies,
- the scientific community,
- industrial players.
In practice, it takes a variety of forms to:
- take into account specific regional and sector-based characteristics,
- incorporate new criteria, such as:
- the risk of water shortage,
- the monetization of environmental impacts,
- new climate change indicators.
Today, LCA is an invaluable tool for assessing the impacts on the environment of activities linked to new energy systems. It is used to identify :
- the principal sources of pollution,
- opportunities to improve the environmental performance of products and services at various stages of their life cycle.
Conduct studies and develop methodologies to support decision-making and guide R&D strategies.
« Using LCA in selecting technologies » - Panorama 2013 technical report