The NEEDS Life Cycle Inventory Database

The European reference life cycle inventory database of future electricity supply systems


The NEEDS project evaluated the full costs and benefits (i.e. private and external costs) of energy policies and of future energy systems in individual European countries and the enlarged European Union. Research Stream 1a was in charge of compiling the technical specifications, the cost data and life cycle based information of future electricity supply technologies and of future materials production and transport services.

The project covered three time horizons, namely today, 2025 and 2050 and three different scenarios. The scenarios differ in terms of optimism towards technological improvements, cost reductions and market growth rates of the technologies under investigation:

  • pessimistic (PE): Socio-economic framing conditions do not stimulate market uptake and technical innovations.
  • realistic-optimistic (RO): Strong socio-economic drivers support dynamic market uptake and continuous technology development. It is very likely that the respective technology gains relevance on the global electricity market.
  • very optimistic (VO): A technological breakthrough makes the respective technology on the long term a leading global electricity supply technology.
The future European electricity mix also depends on future developments. Three different future electricity mixes were developed and applied on the life cycle inventories (see Table 1). Within the fuel categories shown below further differentiation is taken into account (hard coal, lignite, fuel oil, natural gas; carbon capture and storage; run-of-river, reservoir, pumped-storage; biomass, wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, wave energy).

  today 2050
  UCTE business as usual 440 ppm CO2 enhanced renewables
  fossil 46.8 55.3 47.6 19.7
  nuclear 35.7 22.0 24.4 0.0
  hydro 15.7 13.6 14.5 23.3
  new renewables and waste 1.8 8.6 12.8 56.1
  applied on technology scenario - PE RO VO
Table 1: Fuel shares (in %) in the European electricity mix today and in 2050

In addition to the consistent scenario families (PE, business as usual; RO, 440 ppm CO2; VO, enhanced renewables), the 440 ppm CO2 electricity mix is applied on all three technology scenarios. In total, 11 life cycle inventory datasets are offered in the NEEDS LCI database.
The ecoinvent data v1.3 are used in the background. For selected materials (cement, flat glass, aluminium, copper, iron and steel, nickel and ferro-nickel, MG-silicon and zinc) and selected road based transport services (van and lorries with 16, 28 and 32 tons maximum gross weight) the background data were adapted to scenario dependent future situations.
The life cycle inventory include the supply of the fuel (from the oil well or the forests to the storage facility at the power plant), the manufacture and construction of the power plant itself, the operation of the power plant (electricity production and management of fuel wastes) and the dismantling of the power plant and the waste management of its materials. Data are established according to the ecoinvent quality guidelines and delivered in the EcoSpold data format with the help of the EcoSpold access software.