Responsible editor: Rainer Zah
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11367-016-1109-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Version 3 of ecoinvent includes more data, new modeling principles, and, for the first time, several system models: the “Allocation, cut-off by classification” (Cut-off) system model, which replicates the modeling principles of version 2, and two newly introduced models called “Allocation at the point of substitution” (APOS) and “Consequential” (Wernet et al. 2016). The aim of this paper is to analyze and explain the differences in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) results of the v3.1 Cut-off system model in comparison to v2.2 as well as the APOS and Consequential system models.
In order to do this, functionally equivalent datasets were matched across database versions and LCIA results compared to each other. In addition, the contribution of specific sectors was analyzed. The importance of new and updated data as well as new modeling principles is illustrated through examples.
Results and discussion
Differences were observed in between all database versions using the impact assessment methods Global Warming Potential (GWP100a), ReCiPe Endpoint (H/A), and Ecological Scarcity 2006 (ES’06). The highest differences were found for the comparison of the v3.1 Cut-off and v2.2. At average, LCIA results increased by 6, 8, and 17 % and showed a median dataset deviation of 13, 13, and 21 % for GWP, ReCiPe, and ES’06, respectively. These changes are due to the simultaneous update and addition of new data as well as through the introduction of global coverage and spatially consistent linking of activities throughout the database. As a consequence, supply chains are now globally better represented than in version 2 and lead, e.g., in the electricity sector, to more realistic life cycle inventory (LCI) background data. LCIA results of the Cut-off and APOS models are similar and differ mainly for recycling materials and wastes. In contrast, LCIA results of the Consequential version differ notably from the attributional system models, which is to be expected due to fundamentally different modeling principles. The use of marginal instead of average suppliers in markets, i.e., consumption mixes, is the main driver for result differences.
LCIA results continue to change as LCI databases evolve, which is confirmed by a historical comparison of v1.3 and v2.2. Version 3 features more up-to-date background data as well as global supply chains and should, therefore, be used instead of previous versions. Continuous efforts will be required to decrease the contribution of Rest-of-the-World (RoW) productions and thereby improve the global coverage of supply chains.