Critical Review

The 52nd Annual A&WMA Critical Review                                         

Circular Economy for Clean Energy Technologies – Critical Review, Status, Challenges, and Opportunities

Authors: Drs. Garvin Heath and Dwarak Ravikumar, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Dr. Garvin Heath is an inaugural Distinguished Member of the Research Staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA, specializing in the analysis of environmental impacts of energy systems – renewable and conventional, electricity and fuels. He is also a member of the State of Colorado’s Air Quality Enterprise Board and is a Senior Research Associate in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado. Using the tools of life cycle assessment, air quality modeling, and sustainability analysis, he has led research that has developed novel methods for quantifying environmental impacts, including circularity, that has been published in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, journals published by Nature Research, and international benchmark reports (IPCC, UNEP). Dr. Heath leads the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS) Technology Collaboration Programme Task 12: Sustainability. Dr. Heath is an interdisciplinary scientist and engineer with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Brown University, M.S. in Environmental (air quality) Engineering, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Dwarak Ravikumar is a Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA, with M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering from Arizona State University, and has completed a 2-year post-doctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan. Dr. Ravikumar’s research focuses on operationalizing a circular economy for renewable energy infrastructure systems, especially photovoltaics (PV), and carbon dioxide through carbon capture and utilization (CCU). He is an expert in life cycle assessment and techno-economic analysis in both mature and low technology readiness level applications, as well as developing multicriteria decision analysis to integrate the economic, environmental, and social impacts and, thereby, develop a more holistic sustainability assessment of circular economy strategies. Dr. Ravikumar has also developed novel recycling approaches for PV and methodologically advanced the practice of life cycle assessment for low technology readiness level applications through an anticipatory approach. Over the course of his circular economy research, Dr. Ravikumar has collaborated extensively with diverse stakeholders such as industry, non-governmental organizations, national labs, and universities.
In the 52nd Annual A&WMA Critical Review, Drs. Heath and Ravikumar will examine the topic of the circular economy for clean energy technologies with accelerating deployment, but whose assets have largely not yet reached end of life, including solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, and batteries. The review will consider all aspects of technology, industrial practice, and policy within the parameters of a circular economy, which are applicable across the life cycle of a technology, from design and manufacturing to operation and end of life. The review authors will consider all aspects of the circular economy, including a review of the current literature. As far as the authors are aware, this will be the first paper to not only authoritatively identify, synthesize, and critically review the status, challenges, and opportunities for all circular economy pathways for each of these technologies individually, but also to draw out parallels across the leading clean energy technologies holistically.
The full-length paper will appear in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (JA&WMA) and its conclusions will be presented live as part of the 2022 A&WMA Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco, CA. Following the review presentation, a panel of invited experts will critique the presentation and offer their own views on the topic. Invited discussants will represent key stakeholder groups, including federal and state agencies; researchers; industry experts; NGOs; and community action groups. Comments also will be solicited from the floor during a live question-and-answer sequence to end the session. To complete the review process, the Critical Review Committee Chair will synthesize all of the discussion points into a single Discussion Paper that will be published in the October 2022 issue of JA&WMA.

About the Critical Review
For more than 50 years, A&WMA has solicited and published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (JA&WMA) an Annual Critical Review on a topic of critical importance to the air and waste management fields. Each year, the review author presents the Annual Critical Review during A&WMA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition. The Critical Review Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Publications Committee, selects the review topics, solicits the authors/presenters, offers editorial guidance and critiques to the review authors, reviews the final manuscript before publication, and selects the participants for the panel discussion that follows the review presentation. 

Complete list of past Critical Reviews
A&WMA Critical Review Committee Charter and Manual of Operations
A&WMA Critical Review Committee