Life cycle assessment of renewable energy business models in Africa

  • Velma Mukoro

Student thesis: Phd

Abstract

Circular business models are increasingly gaining research interest to explore their potential in creating and delivering environmental value. Presently, companies are compelled to operate more sustainably by integrating environmental considerations into their business models. Business model innovation is instrumental to this end. This research aims to improve the understanding of the potential of business models, designed for environmental sustainability, in mitigating the negative impacts of renewable energy development in Africa. Africa is projected to lead globally in new renewable energy additions by 2030 if it meets its nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement. Business models will be among the key drivers of this growth, therefore, it is essential to investigate the environmental impacts of production, distribution, and consumption of renewable energy on the continent. The findings of systematic literature reviews show that so far, the environmental impacts of renewable energy business models in Africa are largely unexplored. There is scarce evidence and a poor understanding of the role and relevance of business models in mitigating the impacts of renewable energy development on a life cycle basis. This research integrates life cycle assessment, participatory decision making, and business model innovation to create an iterative framework for assessing the Environmental impacts of BUsiness Models (EBuM) considering social and economic aspects. It conducts workshops in solar energy companies in Kenya to test the framework and evaluate how incumbent traditional business models can be made more circular to improve their environmental performance. Empirical investigations find that transitioning from traditional to circular business models can significantly reduce life cycle environmental impacts. For example, climate change potential can reduce by 25%-55%. These potential environmental benefits are contingent on customer acceptance of circular business models (e.g., new value propositions) and the financial feasibility of adopting them. This study makes significant contributions to the wider literature on the topic by providing insights into the environmental impacts of renewable energy development in Africa. It draws from a broad range of evidence to explain why renewable energy business models on the continent fail or succeed and provides key lessons that are beneficial to businesses and policy. This study applies the EBuM framework to present the first life cycle assessment of renewable energy business models in Africa. The framework can be applied to different types of business models across any sector.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaria Sharmina (Supervisor) & Alejandro Gallego Schmid (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Circular economy
  • Renewable energy
  • Africa
  • Business models
  • Life cycle assessment

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