Lead Objective 3: Embedded and Indirect Energy Flows

In fact, energy flows are incomplete, if one considers only electricity, heat/ cold and fuels – the usual break-down of energy into categories. A lot of energy is contained as embedded or grey energy in materials or in food production and supply. Building materials are the most prominent example and it is known that the life-cycle energy balance of buildings is very much distorted, if the embedded energy in the building materials is not taken into account, leading to merely wrong conclusions about sustainable ways of construction – a very important aspect when dealing with eco-buildings like in this project.
Furthermore, actions of people from one area can generate indirect energy flows which appear neither as energy nor as material flows within the respective area. This happens for instance if they make use of services which are provided outside the considered area. Food production and transportation often hide a huge amount of indirect energy which could partially be lowered by enhancing the regional component of the increase-in-value chain.
The smaller the considered geographical area is, the more important is the embedded and the indirect part of energy flows. E.g. a small area, comprising a couple of villages, might quickly base its directly measurable energy supply by more than 100% on renewable sources, if it has a sufficiently large agricultural or forest area and sufficiently low number of inhabitants. However, this area might import all industrial goods, food or even building materials which contain a lot of embedded energy. Or the inhabitants might travel often by airplane – outside the considered area of course – or make extensive use of services situated outside their areas, such as schools, hospitals, etc.
The consideration of embedded and indirect energy flows will be made possible through the application of material flow management (MFM) to the 4 core and associated regions.

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