- Description of the Research Group +
The Industrial Ecology and Sustainability laboratory includes a multidisciplinary group dedicated to develop models that can be used to support decision making in a set of diversified but correlated areas ranging from the urban to the national or international scales.
The basic principles that constitute the backbone of the models consist on the combination of scientific areas in order to develop new knowledge based on the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, namely mass and energy balances, which are applied to complex socio-economic systems, and therefore are combined with economics and environmental analysis tools and models.
Research activities at this Laboratory aim to improve the design of complex sustainable systems by understanding and modelling relationships between population dynamics, energy and materials use, ecosystem services, environmental impacts of human activities and economic growth.
The ultimate goal is to promote a holistic view of engineering systems which requires the development of a set of tools to bridge different scales, from site or product specific analysis, to the whole economy and ranging across the economic, the social and the environmental dimensions, thus resulting in a multi-disciplinary set of analytical tools, whose development and extension will be a continuous goal for the future. These tools will be used to design and promote new policy instruments that may contribute to improve the environmental performance of products and services through their life-cycles, as well as more efficient economic metabolisms at different scales. Cooperation with industry and governments gives rise to innovations in sustainable buildings, in designing more efficient renewable energy-based systems, including intelligent transportation systems and in managing ecosystem services.
The innovative character of the group has been recognized at different levels, such as the international level, where it has been active in developing urban development roadmaps in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan or modeling the urban metabolism of different Asian cities or at a national level, where it has been supporting EDA (Azores electrical utility) in the design of islands energy systems or more recently, appointed by the minister of Environment to coordinate the national strategy for Urban Waste for 2020.
- Main achievements +
The main achievements of the lab include the development of new models that were used to establish metabolism of urban areas. A major work was contracted by the Asian Development Bank in a partnership with the Interamerican Development Bank in which context a network of Asian cities metabolism was quantified by modeling their material flows consumption and correlating it with the economic sectors that were responsible for their consumption. A strategic plan for the development of the major cities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was also developed, including the waste, energy and water dimensions of their metabolism.
At a national level, the group was responsible to coordinate the Portuguese strategy for urban waste management, PERSU 2020.
At regional level, the group was responsible to coordinate a project of energy planning in the Island of São Miguel in Azores, to evaluate the feasibility of installing a pump-hydro power plant.
In the context of energy policy support, models of different scales of the Portuguese energy system were developed, namely models combining renewable energies and demand side management and using weather forecasting tools for wind power forecasting. This was also used to assess the impact of the adoption of carbon capture and sequestration strategies for Portugal.
Making use of the advanced laboratorial facilities at IN+/IST, physical and chemical beneficiation for recycling metals from end-of-life products has been carried out, and new market oriented solutions for recycling batteries have been developed.
- Structure of the Research Group +
The Research group is structured in three subgroups, as below
1: Urban Metabolism and Sustainable Cities (UMSC);
Major urban areas in the world are facing huge changes in land use and on their interaction with the environment, mainly due to increased levels of economic development, resulting in most cases in a huge urban sprawl and changes in their form. This clearly establishes an intertwining between economy, environment and quality of life at an urban level, whose understanding requires a new set of tools that may correlate the use of natural resources, economic activities and consumption patterns.
The urban metabolism concept is grounded on the analogy with the metabolism of living organisms', as cities can transform raw materials into infrastructures, human biomass and waste. It quantifies the amount of materials that are consumed by each economic activity in urban areas. We have developed a set of new methods for quantifying urban metabolism making use of national statistical data publicly available and scaling it down to an urban level.
Considerable advances were achieved aiming to develop straightforward methodologies to model the urban metabolism of world urban regions. The Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA) was the main case study for the validation of the methodology supported by EU and national statistical data. Additional studies for urban sustainability include the uncovering of opportunities for industrial symbiosis in the LMA and rainwater reuse in buildings.
2: Energy Planning
High fuel costs, increasing energy security and concerns with reducing emissions have pushed governments to invest in the use of renewable energies for electricity generation. However, the intermittence of most renewable resources when renewable energy provides a significant share of the energy mix can create problems to electricity grids, which can be minimized by energy storage systems that are usually not available or expensive. An alternative solution consists on the use of "demand side management strategies", which can have the double effect of reducing electricity consumption and allowing greater efficiency and flexibility in the grid management, namely by enabling a better match between supply and demand.
However, making use of renewable energies and "demand side management strategies" requires advanced energy systems modelling capacities, which were developed at IN+ in several studies. They ranged from synthetic wind speed models, to global energy system models with emphasis on upgrading the "TIMES model" to a high temporal resolution, compatible with hourly renewable energy fluctuations (Souza, Pina, Leal and Silva, 2012). We developed the capacity to model renewable energy including the operation of wind and hydro plants together with energy use scenarios, deployment of demand response technologies in the domestic sector and behavioral changes to eliminate standby power.
3: Waste characterization and management: physical and chemical processing Substantial research efforts have been dedicated to recycling and valorization of residues, which required spread knowledge in several domains, including materials characterization, physical-chemical and environmental analysis, physical separation (minerallurgical and other related techniques), chemical and metallurgical engineering, modelling, process development and design. Besides the characterization of secondary resources, natural raw materials have also been studied taking into account related interfaces with the environment.
Main areas of specialization include recycling processes of metallic residues in the scope of mercury removal from waste sources, recycling of sealed Ni-Cd and Zn-Mn type batteries, valorization of residues from military activities, and waste of electric and electronic equipment, among other waste streams like rice husk and spent etching baths of aluminum.
- Objectives of the Research Group +
The ultimate goals for this Laboratory include:
Additionally, the programme will contribute to provide appropriate tools and methods for managing over multiple space and time scales, integrate biophysical and social components, adapt and deal effectively with uncertainty, visualize and identify planning problems and work to identify trade-offs and synergies in undertaking interventions.
The existing Doctoral Program on "Sustainable Energy Systems, SES", at IST-Lisbon (Technical University of Lisbon), allowing degrees in association with the Universities of Porto and Coimbra and in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, is acting as the main "vehicle" to foster doctoral research in the areas of this initiative.
Integrated models of environment-energy-economy interaction are being developed, at multiple spatial scales (cities, regions, countries), using models such as input-output, computable general equilibrium models, and economic growth. These have been used in support of policy making on sustainable use of energy, water and raw materials in general, and regional, urban and rural sustainability planning in particular. Based on these models, work will be carried out in the development of sustainability assessment tools and indicators, e.g. Green GDP, ecological footprint and human appropriation of net primary production. Urban metabolism will deserve particular attention, focusing on developing spatially comprehensive and temporally broad physical models of resource consumption of urban centers. Additionally, energy and materials consumption in buildings and new and innovative solutions to promote the concept of "Sustainable Buildings" will be studied.
In the context of the sustainable energy systems, which will constitute a major research area, the design of future intelligent energy and transportation systems which are "green", "smart", and "efficient", requires an understanding of a region's current systems, including detailed characterizations of its energy networks, supplies, and demands, and of the main factors influencing the evolution of those supplies and demands, including multiple renewable resources, and socio-economic and behavioral dynamics.
A major research topic is the development of models to facilitate the penetration and integration of forms of renewable energies. The need to foster aggressive energy efficiency end-uses introduces a new set of issues in energy systems planning that the current tools are not able to answer.
This includes developing models that resolve the hourly dynamics of renewable resources in order to evaluate accurately the match between demand and supply; it is necessary to include the demand dynamics to evaluate accurately the impact of demand side management strategies like load shedding or load shifting. In parallel, operational NWP (Numerical Weather Prediction) models for Portugal will continue to be used in forecasting availability from wind power plants. Progressively, these two lines of work will be integrated.