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Sustainability Analysis: Work Energy (Exergy) as Indicator

Authored by: Søren Nors Nielsen

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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A methodology has been developed that allows one to analyze the energetic and material flows as well as the infrastructure of a society in terms of their respective contents of work energy (exergy). This way of accounting for the stocks, inputs, and outputs as well as internal flows and consumptions makes it possible to bring all flows in the same units and compare the respective role of processes and structure in terms of quantities and qualities they bring to our society. The method for doing this is based on a hierarchical approach using six sectors: energy, public, private, agriculture, industry, and nature, together with information on the activities taking place in them as an entry point. In addition, a variety of sustainability indicators can be established then to make some qualified considerations on possibilities to increase efficiencies in the system and continuously move the society in a direction of increasing sustainability. The method has been developed and tested on the Danish island of Samsø using data from 2011.

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