SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT AND INDICATOR DEVELOPMENT: THE ELECTRICITY SYSTEM IN DALIAN, CHINA
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Electricity is used all over the world as a basic source of energy, essential for lighting, powering basic appliances and tools, as well as many other technologies important for today's societies. Electricity is produced, transmitted and distributed to consumers with a range of resources and technologies, resulting in a process that has impacts on sustainability. This thesis examines the interconnections among production, regulation and consumption of electricity, investigating the sustainability of the electricity system broadly defined. Under auspices of the Ecoplan China project, a case study approach is used to assess the sustainability of the electricity system in Dalian, China. Gibson (2002a) argues that sustainability ought to be conceptualized as a set of requirements, which are outlined as principles of sustainability. These principles, in this thesis, form the basis for a Sustainability Assessment of the electricity system in Dalian. The principles provide the analytical framework for reviewing the literature that discusses electricity in sustainability terms and in relation to China. Gibson's conception of sustainability is broad and does not provide guidance on specific procedures for conducting a Sustainability Assessment. The sustainability principles operate on complex systems theory and on the principle of integration, resulting in limitations for their practical application. More specifically, Gibson's principles are operationalized with electricity assessment indices derived for use in the study of Dalian. Relevant indicators are selected based on these indices. This work is exploratory in nature, as it tests the utility of the sustainability principles for assessment and indicator developent. The electricity infrastructure and system regulations relevant for Dalian were reviewed, while local consumer attitudes in relation to electricity were also examined. Dalian is dependent on coal as the primary source of electricity. Production infrastructure also includes a limited supply of wind power. A nuclear plant is being constructed in the region to reduce the need for future expansion of coal-based electricity production. The local grid infrastructure has been improved in recent years to increase efficiency of electricity transmission and to ensure that all residents have access to a reliable supply of electricity. Industrial growth and restructuring has increased the demand for electricity. The local regulatory environment is based on a centralized structure, with much input coming from provincial and state government bodies. Local consumer attitudes were investigated with a survey, in order to shed light on how sustainability and electricity are manifested in Dalian residents. This information is qualified in sustainability terms and relevant indicators are derived. The research is intended to start discussion in Dalian for developing a framework for evaluating sustainability of the electricity system and on sustainable development in general. The study supports Dalian's goal for becoming an eco-city and the results provide recommendations for further study of Dalian's electricity system. Dalian has taken steps to improve the electricity system, but a clear strategy to develop long-term sustainability is necessary. In coordination with local experts and government representatives, Ecoplan China is in a good position to further extend research for developing sustainability-based policy and planning tools for Dalian.