Although there is a fast growing body of literature on how and to what extent industrial symbioses (i.e. inter-firm exchange and cascading of waste materials, water and energy) affect sustainable industrial development, empirical research on their potential contributions to mitigate climate change remains very limited.
Our research aims at a systematic, quantitative assessment of the extent to which industrial symbiosis mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA), one of the three national demonstration eco-industrial parks in China.
Existing symbiotic relationships to mitigate GHG emissions in TEDA can be classified into 3 categories: inter-firm energy cascading (e.g. condensate recycling, desalination), park-wide utility sharing (e.g. co-generation, carbon-black flue gas utilization), and regional waste-to-energy initiatives. The energy sources of TEDA are dominated by fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, electricity, and transportation fuels) with very limited use of geothermal and solar energy. Therefore, industrial symbiosis that may save energy significantly would substantially reduce the park-wide GHG emissions due to the carbon-intensive energy supply structure of TEDA.
Our research first quantifies the park-wide energy-related GHG emissions. Then we take stock existing energy-related symbiotic relationships and quantify their impacts on GHG emissions reduction. We further carry out a cost-effectiveness analysis of various symbiotic relationships to reduce GHG emissions at the eco-industrial park against existing intra-firm energy efficiency efforts. The research also evaluates the overall impact of industrial symbiosis on mitigating GHG emissions in comparison with the overall GHG emissions of TEDA.
The findings show energy-related symbioses at a larger geographic scale have greater potential for mitigating GHG emissions despite their higher initial capital investments. On the other hand, intra-firm energy conservation and co-located inter-firm energy cascading efforts turn out to be more cost-effective in but have smaller potential for reducing GHG emissions.
Keywords: industrial symbiosis, greenhouse gas emission, mitigation, cost-effectiveness,