Modelling the diffusion and operation of anaerobic digestions in Great Britain under future scenarios within the scope of water-energy-food nexus

Mohamad Abdel-Aal, Ismail Haltas, Liz Varga

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The paper aims to understand the impacts of the spatial and temporal diffusion of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) on the Water Energy Food (WEF) nexus and to quantify the associated environmental, social and economic benefits. Contemporary tight carbon reduction targets urge the need to deploy renewable energy technologies however due to interdependencies across the WEF nexus, various technologies are beneficial for some but not all sectors. This paper quantifies the impacts of future possible AD technology diffusion choices on the environment, society and economy. This can aid decision makers to identify the potential consequences of various AD alternatives within the next three decades. The study considers an integrated WEF nexus approach and accounts for the interdependencies within the nexus. This was done by developing an Agent-Based Model (ABM) and simulating the relations between the main players within the nexus, thus examining the upscaling of AD diffusion and its consequences for water consumption, energy production, transportation, landfill use, food waste processing and digestate generation. Three future WEF nexus scenarios, that reflect potential alternatives of society and technology in Great Britain up to 2050, were utilised by the ABM implementation to test the sensitivity of AD diffusion choices. These scenarios describe possible changes to lifestyle, governance, technologies, climate, and social structures. Accounting for the uncertainty associated with such future simulations, the Monte Carlo method was employed to estimate the potential variations in scenario outputs. Results suggest that decentralisation results in the largest carbon reduction, but can incur more costs. Centralisation consumes 35% more water but produces 37% more energy (biogas). The paper has visualised the scenario outputs graphically to highlight the consequences of neglecting the inter-relationships between environmental, social and economic aspects of AD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number119897
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date2 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020


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