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Université de Sherbrooke

1. Fernandez Astudillo, Miguel. Evaluating environmental consequences of decarbonising energy services .

Degree: 2019, Université de Sherbrooke

Abstract: The services provided by energy commodities are essential for human wellbeing but the reliance on fossil-fuels is jeopardising the livelihood of future generations and ecosystems, through global warming and other cause-effect pathways. There is an urgent need to transform the energy system, but this transformation may create unforeseen problems if not planned comprehensively. Many energy transitions plans rely on energy system optimisation models (ESOM), but these models are ill-prepared to evaluate the range of environmental stressors and their effects, and have oversimplified representations of production systems. An integrative approach combining ESOMs with life cycle assessment (LCA) can overcome the limitations of ESOMs, helping to avoid the ‘backfire’ of mitigation policies. This thesis gives an overview of the limitations of existing approaches linking ESOMs and LCA and implements a novel approach to overcome them. Several questions related to the energy transition in the province of Quebec (Canada) are assessed with the North American TIMES Energy Model (NATEM). The main scenario investigated, modelling the consequences of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation targets, is assessed from a life cycle perspective. To link both the optimization and the LCA models, a set of functions and procedures are encoded in an open-source software, that can be reused in other assessments. Results show that just a relatively narrow number of processes drive the changes in GHG, and this feature can be used to simplify the linking between TIMES and LCA models. The integrated ESOM-LCA assessment applied to Quebec indicates that global warming (GW) mitigation policies would reduce impacts on human health and biodiversity. This reduced impact is driven by reduced climate change but also other cause-effect mechanisms such as reduced water scarcity and metal contamination. Additionally, full-year building simulations of Quebec detached houses introduced as new technological options in NATEM suggest that better insulated buildings would reduce the total costs of GW mitigation. The introduction of low-carbon technologies could raise the costs of energy services by 20% but these costs could be substantially lowered with demand-side measures. ESOMs provide an interesting but limited perspective to plan energy transitions. The softlink of ESOMs with LCA is a viable approach to give a more comprehensive view of relative importance of cause-effect pathways affecting human health and biodiversity. The integrated assessment is a powerful tool to analyse a wide range of issues related to the needed energy transitions. Understanding the underlying assumptions and principles of models is also important to interpret and design assessments. To facilitate this kind of analysis, researchers should facilitate the reusability of their works, agreeing on output formats, documenting the code underlying the analyses, and providing tools to integrate models. To this end, scriptable open-source software tools are extremely useful. This thesis attempts… Advisors/Committee Members: Ben Amor, Mourad (advisor), Pineau, Pierre-Olivier (advisor).

Subjects/Keywords: Analyse de cycle de vie; Énergie; MARKAL; TIMES; Optimisation; LCA; ACV; NATEM

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APA (6th Edition):

Fernandez Astudillo, M. (2019). Evaluating environmental consequences of decarbonising energy services . (Doctoral Dissertation). Université de Sherbrooke. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Fernandez Astudillo, Miguel. “Evaluating environmental consequences of decarbonising energy services .” 2019. Doctoral Dissertation, Université de Sherbrooke. Accessed May 25, 2019.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Fernandez Astudillo, Miguel. “Evaluating environmental consequences of decarbonising energy services .” 2019. Web. 25 May 2019.


Fernandez Astudillo M. Evaluating environmental consequences of decarbonising energy services . [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Université de Sherbrooke; 2019. [cited 2019 May 25]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Fernandez Astudillo M. Evaluating environmental consequences of decarbonising energy services . [Doctoral Dissertation]. Université de Sherbrooke; 2019. Available from: