LCA of electricity from hydropower in Iceland

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was performed for hydroelectric generation from three different hydropower plants in Iceland operated by Landsvirkjun. 

The assessment was carried out in compliance with international standards ISO 14040 and ISO 14044, identifying different phases or components of the life cycle carrying the heaviest environmental burdens.

About this Project

Landsvirkjun, The National Power Company of Iceland

2010 - 2017

Eastern part of Iceland


The project's objective

EFLA performed a life cycle assessment of electricity generation in three hydropower plants. The assessments are necessary to better understand the environmental impacts of hydropower development in Iceland and in order to compare these impacts with similar projects overseas. The assessments are also in line with Landsvirkjun's Environmental Policy Targets, i.e. to use LCA to improve efficiency in the utilisation of natural resources and to reduce any impact on the environment.

EFLA managed all major aspects of the LCA study, including data collection for the life cycle inventory (LCI), modelling using leading sustainability software, life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) and preparation of a final report. The goal and scope of the study was defined, as well as lifetime and a functional unit (1 kWh). Data was collected on all materials and energy used during the manufacturing, construction, and operation phases, including recycling and transport within and between phases. 

The life cycle impact assessment was carried out using environmental impact indicators, including climate change (carbon footprint), ozone depletion, acidification, eutrophication, ecotoxicity etc. The results are interpreted and presented graphically in a final report.

Environmental issues

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used to assess the environmental impact of a product, process or service from cradle to grave. The standardized method can be used to compare environmental impacts of similar products and services.

EFLA's role 

  • Data collection for the life cycle inventory (LCI)
  • Modelling using leading sustainability software
  • Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA)
  • Preparation of a final report

The project's long term benefits

The study identifies the main environmental hot spots of Landsvirkjun's hydropower development and the assessment can be used as a part of a comprehensive decision process in the design phase, construction preparation, procurement and in operational stages, with the purpose of reducing environmental impacts of hydropower utilization. The results can also be used to publish an EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) for energy production from hydropower plants. The LCA can thus be used as an important tool in environmental management and ecodesign for continuous improvement. Also LCA results are important when publishing environmental information about the energy production.

The assessments are also in line with Landsvirkjun's Environmental Policy Targets, i.e. to use LCA to improve efficiency in the use of natural resources and to reduce impact on the environment.