Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran

2 Department of Desert Areas Management, Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran.



Rising energy production and consumption, particularly from fossil fuels, pose substantial threats to both global climate and human well-being. Conventional fossil fuel technologies, as primary energy sources in power plants, predominantly generate pollutants during power generation. Conversely, renewable energy technologies are anticipated to contribute to pollution primarily during equipment manufacturing. The combustion of traditional fuels gives rise to significant volumes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and hazardous substances, leading to escalated costs for individuals and the worldwide populace. External costs attributed to coal-fired power plants range from 4.0 to 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, nearly three times higher than those of gas-fired power plants, and multiple times greater than the expenditures linked with renewable energy technologies. The substitution of non-renewable fuels with clean energy sources stands as an efficacious approach to curtailing atmospheric pollution and the concomitant external expenses. On a global scale, an annual savings of up to 230 billion dollars is potentially attainable by achieving a 36% share of clean energy within the global energy mix by 2030. This topic has garnered the attention of policymakers worldwide. Consequently, this study undertakes an examination of the environmental ramifications and social costs associated with diverse energy sources.


Main Subjects

Abbasi, S.A., & Abbasi, N. (2000). The likely adverse environmental impacts of renewable energy sources. Applied Energy, 65, 121–144.
Abromas, J. (2014). Assessment of the visual impact of wind turbines on the landscape. Summary of doctoral dissertation. Technological Sciences, Environmental Engineering (04T). The Kaunas University of Technology. (
Akbari, M., Modarres, R., & Alizadeh Noughani, M. (2019). Assessing early warning for desertification hazard based on E-SMART indicators in arid regions of northeastern Iran. Journal of Arid Environments, 174, 104086.
Akbari, M., Neamatollahi, E., Memarian, H. & Alizadeh Noughani, M. (2023). Assessing impacts of floods disaster on soil erosion risk based on the RUSLE-GloSEM approach in western Iran. Natural Hazards 117, 1689–1710.
Aly, A.I.M., & Hussein, R.A. (2014). Environmental Impacts of Nuclear, Fossil, and Renewable Energy Sources: A Review. International Journal of Environment, 3, 73-93. › ije › 2014 › 73-93 PDF
Apte, K., & Salvi, S. (2016). Household air pollution and its effects on health. 5, 2593. [PMC free article] [PubMed]. (
Atilgan, B., & Azapagic, A. (2015). Life cycle environmental impacts of electricity from fossil fuels in Turkey. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 555-564. (
Berger, T.R. (1994). The World Bank's Independent Review of India's Sardar Sarovar Projects, 1991–1992. 12, 3-20. (
Boothroyd, I.M., Almond, S., Worrall, F., Davies, R.K., & Davies, R.J. (2018). Assessing fugitive emissions of CH4 from high-pressure gas pipelines in the UK. Science of the Total Environment, 631, 1638-1648. (
BP, Energy Outlook. (2015). The energy challenge and climate change, (
Bradbury, J., Clement, Z., & Down, A. (2015). Greenhouse gas emissions and fuel use within the natural gas supply chain –Sankey Diagram Methodology. U.S. Department of Energy,
Burke, M.J., & Stephens, J.C. (2018). Political power and renewable energy futures: A critical review. Energy Research & Social Science, 35, 78–93. (
Chandrappa, R., & Kulshrestha, U.C. (2016). Sustainable Air Pollution Management, Environmental Science, and Engineering. Springer International Publishing Switzerland, 379. (
Chen, X., Yan, Y., Fu, R., Dou, X., & Zhang, F. (2008). Sediment transport from the Yangtze River, China, into the sea over the Post-Three Gorge Dam Period: A discussion. Quaternary International, 186, 55–64. (
Cherian, A. (2015). Energy and Global Climate Change: Bridging the Sustainable Development Divide. John Wiley & Sons, 304. (
Christie, P., Mitchell, H., & Holmes, R. (2004). Primer on Bioproducts. BIOCAP Canada Foundation and Pollution Probe, (
Demirel, Y. (2016). Energy-Production, Conversion, Storage, Conservation, and Coupling Second Edition Energy-Production, Conversion, Storage, Conservation, and Coupling. Second Edition. Springer,. (
Department for Environment, Food, Rural Affairs (DEFRA). (2006). UK Climate Change Program. Annual Report to Parliament, March 2006. (
El-Guindy, R., Maged, E., & Mahmoud, K. (2019). Environmental social cost ies from electric power generation. The Case of RCREEE Member States. Available from: cost iesfromelectricpowergeneration2013en.pdf; 2013 [Accessed 10 November 2019].
Elliott, D. (2007). Nuclear or Not? Does Nuclear Power Have a Place in a Sustainable Energy Future? Palgrave Macmillan, 282. (
European Environment Agency (EEA). (2007). Environment EN35 External costs of electricity production. Available from: (; 2007).
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2023). Distributed Generation of Electricity and its Environmental Impacts. 2023. [Accessed 26 May 2023].
Erickson, W.P., Johnson, G.D., & David, P.J.Y. (2005). A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions. Available from: (; 2005).
Esmoil, B. (1995). Wildlife mortality associated with oil pits in Wyoming. Prairie Naturalist, 27, 81-88. (
Evrendilek, F., & Ertekin, C. (2003). Assessing the potential of renewable energy sources in Turkey. Renewable Energy, 28, 2303–2315. (
Fanchi, J.R. (2005). The energy in the 21st century. Published by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. 2005, 257. (
Fouquet, R., Slade, R., Karakoussis, V., Gross, R., Bauen, A., & Anderson, D. (2001). Imperial College of science, technology, and medicine. External Cost and Environmental in the United Kingdom and the European Union. Centre for Energy Policy and Technology,
Fthenakis, V.M., Kim, H.C., & Alsema, E. (2008).  Emissions from Photovoltaic Life Cycles. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 42, 2168–2174. (
Fthenakis, V.M., & Kim, H.C. (2011). Photovoltaics: Life-cycle analyses. Solar Energy, 85, 1609-1628. (
Fu, B.J., Wu, B.F., Lü, Y.H., Xu, Z.H., Cao, J.H., Niu, D., Yang, G.S., & Zhou, Y.M. (2010). Three Gorges Project: Efforts and challenges for the environment. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment, 34, 741-754. (
Georgakellos, D.A. (2012). Climate change external cost appraisal of electricity generation systems from a life cycle perspective: the case of Greece. Journal of Cleaner Production, 32, 124-140. (
Gujba, H., Mulugetta, Y., & Azapagic, A. (2010). Environmental and economic appraisal of power generation capacity expansion plan in Nigeria. Energy Policy, 38, 5636–5652. (
Guttikunda, S.K., & Jawahar, P. (2014). Atmospheric emissions and pollution from the coal-fired thermal power plants in India. Atmospheric Environment, 92, 449-460. (
Harvey, L.D.D. (2010). Energy New Reality 2. Carbon-Free Energy Supply. Published by Earthscan. Washington, DC, USA. 2010, 627. (
Hekmatnia, H., Fatahi Ardakani, A., Mashayekhan, A., & Akbari, M. (2020). Assessing Economic, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy in Iran with Focus on Development of Wind Power Plants, Journal of Renewable Energy and Environment, 3, 67-79. (
Hohmeyer, O., & Ottinger, R.L. (1992). Social costs of energy: Present status and future trends. Springer Verlag, 432. (
Hondo, H. (2005). Life cycles GHG emission analysis of power generation systems: Japanese case. Energy, 30, 2042-2056. (
Independent. (2018). Burning Iranian tanker produces 10-mile oil slick in the East China Sea that threatens marine life. Available from: (;2018). [Accessed on 01 August 2018]
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (2016). Climate change and nuclear power. Available from: (; 2016).
International Energy Agency (IEA). (2006). Energy for cooking in developing countries. Available from: (; 2006).
International Energy Agency (IEA). (2012). Water for Energy. Is energy becoming a thirstier resource? Available from: (; 2012)
International energy agency (IEA). (2016). Energy and Air Pollution. World Energy Outlook Special Report. Executive Summary, (
International energy agency (IEA). (2017). Global Energy and CO2 Status Report 2017. Available from: (
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2001). Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2001. (
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). (2014). Renewable power generation costs in 2014. (
Jones, N.F., & Pejchar, L. (2013). Comparing the Ecological Impacts of Wind and Oil & Gas Development: A Landscape-Scale Assessment. PLoS One, [PMC free article] [PubMed]. (
Kashtabeh, R., Akbari, M., Heidari, A., & Najafpour, A. (2023). Impact of Iron Ore Mining on the Concentration of some Heavy Metals and Soil Pollution Zoning (Case Study: Sangan Iron Ore Mine, Khaf-Iran). Water and Soil, 37, 77-94.
Kassotis, C.D., Tillitt, D.E., Lin, C.H., McElroy, J.A., & Nagel, S.C. (2016). Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Oil and Natural Gas Operations: Potential Environmental Contamination and Recommendations to Assess Complex Environmental Mixtures. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124, 256–264. (
Kondolf, G.M., Gao, Y., Annandale, G.M., Morris, G.L., Jiang, E., Zhang, J., Cao, Y., Carling, P., Fu, K., Guo, Q., Hotchkiss, R., Peteuil, C., Sumi, T., Wang, H., Wang, Z., Wei, Z., Wu, B., Wu, C., & Yang, C.T. (2014). Sustainable sediment management in reservoirs and regulated rivers: Experiences from five continents. Earth’s Future, 6, 256-280. (
Letcher, T.M. (2008). Future energy improved sustainable and clean options for our planet.  Elsevier Science, 400. (
Liano-Paz F, Calvo-Silvosa A, Antelo S I, & Soares I. (2015). The European low-carbon mix for 2030: the role of renewable energy sources in an environmentally and socially efficient approach. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 48, 49-61. (
Li, S., & Zhang, Q. (2014). Carbon emission from global hydroelectric reservoirs revisited. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 23, 13636-41. (
Lopez-Pujol, J., & Ren, M.X. (2009). Biodiversity and the Three Gorges Reservoir: A troubled marriage. Journal of Natural History, 43, 2765–86. (
Lovich, J.E., & Ennen, J.R. (2011). Wildlife conservation and solar energy development in the desert Southwest, Unites States. BioScience, 12, 982–992. (
Machol, B., & Rizk, S. (2013). Economic value of U.S. fossil fuel electricity health impacts. Environment International, 52, 75-80. (
Mamurekli, D. (2010). Environmental impacts of coal mining and coal utilization in the UK. Available from: (; 2010).
Marten, G.G. (2018). Land Use Issues in Biomass Energy Planning. Resource Policy1982; 8,65-74. Available from: ( [Accessed on 05 Aug 2018].
Mboumboue, E., & Njomo, D. (2016). The potential contribution of renewables to the improvement of living conditions of poor rural households in developing countries: Cameroon's case study. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 61, 266-79. (
McDonald, R.I., Fargione, J., Kiesecker, J., Miller, W.M., & Powel, J. (2009). Energy sprawl or energy efficiency: climate policy impacts on natural habitat for the United States of America. PLoS ONE, 2009, (
McFarlan, A. (2018). Techno-economic assessment of pathways for electricity generation in northern remote communities in Canada using methanol and dimethyl ether to replace diesel. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 90, 863–876. (
Miller, B.G. (2005). Coal energy systems. Elsevier Inc. (
Millstein, D., Wiser, R., Bolinger, M., & Barbose, G. (2017). The climate and air-quality benefits of wind and solar power in the United States. Nature energy. (
Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China (MEPPRC).  (2012). Gazette of eco-environmental monitoring of Three Gorges Project, Yangzi River, China, 1997–2011. Available from: (
Moiseenko, T.I. (2005). Effects of acidification on aquatic ecosystems. Russian Journal of Ecology, 36, 93–102. (
Moriarty, P., & Honnery, D. (2012). What is the global potential for renewable energy? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16, 244-252. (
Munawer, M.E. (2018). Human health and environmental impacts of coal combustion and post-combustion wastes. Journal of Sustainable Mining, 2,  87-96. (
Munson, S.M., Belnap, J., & Okin, G.S. (2011). Responses of wind erosion to climate-induced vegetation changes on the Colorado Plateau. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 854–3859. (
National Energy Strategy (NES). (1991). Coal. Chapter 7. Pages 114-139. Available from: ( 1991).
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (2019).  U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters. Available from: <>, 2017 [Accessed on 5 September 2019].
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). (2015). Life cycle assessments of energy technologies. (
National Research Council (NRC). (2010). Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, (
Nieuwlaar, E. (2013). The Netherlands Life Cycle Assessment and Energy Systems. Utrecht University, Utrecht. (
Nilsen, A.G. (2010). Dispossession and Resistance in India: The River and the Rage. Routledge, 242. (
Nippgen, F., Ross, M.R.V., Bernhardt, E.S., & McGlynn, B.L. (2017). Creating a More Perennial Problem? Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Enhances and Sustains Saline Base flows of Appalachian Watersheds. Environmental Science and Technology, 51, 8324-8334. (
Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). (2003).The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Nuclear Electricity Generation: What Are the External Costs? Available from: (; 2003).
Nuclear Energy Agency (NEAa). (2018). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Full Costs of Electricity Provision. (
Nuclear energy agency (NEAb). (2018). The full costs of electricity provision executive summary. Available from: (; 2018).
Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). (2017). Life-cycle emissions analyses. Available from: (Https: // s-Policy/Protecting -the-Environment/Life-Cycle -Emissions-Analyses>; 2017). [Accessed on 25 December 2017].
Novacheck, J., & Johnson, J.X. (2015). The environmental and cost implications of solar energy preferences in Renewable Portfolio Standards. Energy Policy, 86, 250–261. (
Owen, A.D., & Hanley, N. (2004). The economics of climate change. London; New York: Routledge, (
Parliamentary of Office Science and Technology. (2006). The carbon footprint of electricity generation. (
Panwar, N.L., Kaushik, S.C., & Kothari, S. (2011). Role of renewable energy sources in environmental protection: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15, 1513-1524. (
Perera, F. (2018). Pollution from Fossil-Fuel Combustion is the Leading Environmental Threat to Global Pediatric Health and Equity: Solutions Exist. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 16. (
Pichtel, J. (2016). Oil and Gas Production Wastewater: Soil Contamination and Pollution Prevention. Applied and Environmental Soil Science, 8, 1-24. (
Pimentel, D. (2008). Biofuels, solar and wind as renewable energy systems, benefits, and risks. Springer Netherlands. 504. (
Poinssot, C., Bourg, S., Ouvrier, N., Combernoux, N., Rostaing, C., Vargas-Gonzalez, M., & Bruno, J. (2014). Assessment of the environmental footprint of nuclear energy systems. Comparison between closed and open fuel cycles. Energy, 69, 199-211. (
Quaschning, V. (2005). Understanding renewable energy systems. Earthscan Publications Ltd. 289. (
Qurashi, M.M., & Hussain, E.T. (2015). Renewable Energy Technologies for Developing Countries Now and to 2023.  Available from: (
Ramirez, P.J. (2010). Bird mortality in oilfield wastewater disposal facilities. Environmental Management, 46, 820–826. (
Ren, X., Sun, R., Meng, X., Vorobiev, N., Schiemann, M.Y.A., & Levendis, A. (2017). Carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen oxide emissions from the combustion of pulverized raw and torrefied biomass. Fuel, 188, 310-323. (
Riaza, J., Gibbins, J., & Chalmers, H. (2017). Ignition and combustion of single particles of coal and biomass. Fuel, 202, 650-655. (
Ritchie, H. (2020). Energy mix. Available from: < >; 2020.
Rokni, E., Ren, X., Panahi, A., & Levendis, Y. (2018). Emissions of SO2, NOx, CO2, and HCl from Co-firing of coals with raw and horrified biomass fuels. Fuel, 211, 363-374. (
Rosillo-Calle, F., De Groot, P., Hemstock, S.L., & Woods, J. (2015). The Biomass Assessment Handbook: Energy for a sustainable environment. Routledge, 318. (
Ruan, L., Bhardwaj, A.K., Hamilton, S.K., & Robertson, G.P. (2016). Nitrogen fertilization challenges the climate benefit of cellulosic biofuels. Environmental Research Letters. PLoS One. [PMC free article] [PubMed]. ( 9326/11/6/064007)
Saidi, K., & Hammami, S. (2015). The impact of CO2 emissions and economic growth on energy consumption in 58 countries. Energy Reports, 1, 62–70. (
Science Daily. (2015). UN report takes a global view of the 'green energy choices' Report provides a comprehensive comparison of the greenhouse gas mitigation potential for a number of alternative energy methods. Available from:>; 2015).
Shahsavari, A., & Akbari, M. (2018). Potential of solar energy in developing countries for reducing energy-related emissions. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 90, 275–291. (
Shahsavari, A., Tabatabaei Yazdi, F., & Tabatabaei Yazdi, H. (2019). Potential of solar energy in Iran for carbon dioxide mitigation. International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 16, 507-524. (
Smith, K.R., Frumkin, H., Balakrishnan, K., Butler, C.D., Chafe, Z.A, Fairlie, I., Kinney, P., Kjellstrom, T., Mauzerall, D.L., McKone, T.E., McMichael, A.J, & Schneider, M. (2013). Energy, and Human Health. Annual Review of Public Health, 34, 159–188. (
Streimikiene, D., & Alisauskaite-Seskiene, I. (2014). External costs of electricity generation options in Lithuania. Renewable Energy, 64, 215-224. (
Stevens, M. (2019). Environmental impacts of uranium mining. Available from: (>; 2018) [Accessed on 08 July 2019].
Styles, J.H. (2018). Nuclear Power Plant Water Usage and Consumption. Stanford University. Available from: (; 2017) [Accessed on 05 July 2018].
Sumathi, S., Kumar, L.A., & Surekha, P. (2015). Green Energy and Technology, Solar PV and Wind Energy Conversion Systems. Springer Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London, 807. (
Tian, Z.Q., Chen, W.L., & Zhao, C.M, et al. (2007). Plant biodiversity and its conservation strategy in the inundation and resettlement districts of the Yangtze Three Gorges, China. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 27, 3110–3118. (
Timmons, D., Harris, J.M., & Roach, B. (2014). The Economics of Renewable Energy. Global Development and Environment Institute Tufts University, Medford, MA.
Tranvik, L.J., Downing, J.A., & Cotner, J.B., et al. (2009). Lakes and reservoirs as regulators of carbon cycling and climate. Limnol Oceanogr,   54, 2298–2314. (
Treyer, K., & Bauer, C. (2014). Simons, A., Human health impacts in the life cycle of future European electricity generation. Energy Policy, 74, 31-44. (
Turney, D., & Fthenakis, V. (2011). Environmental impacts from the installation and operation of large-scale solar power plants. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15, 3261–3270. (
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIAa). (2018). Use of coal. Available from: ( [Accessed on 30 July 2018].
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIAb). (2018). Coal and the environment. Available from: ( [Accessed on 01 August 2018].
Utilities Middle East. (2018). Falling Costs Offer New Hope for Renewables' Future. Available from: ( [Accessed on 07 October 2019].
Vallero, D. (2014). Fundamentals of Air Pollution.  National Academic Press, 996. (
Wang, B., Wang, Q., Wei, Y.M., & Li, Z.P. (2018). Role of renewable energy in China’s energy security and climate change mitigation: An index decomposition analysis, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 90, 187–194. (
Watts, N., Adger, W.N., Agnolucci, P., Blackstock, J., Byass, P., Cai, W., Chaytor, S., Colbourn, T., Collins, M., & Cooper, A. (2015). Health and climate change: Policy responses to protect public health. Lancet, 386, 1861-1914. (
Weinzettela, J., & Havránekb, M. (2012). ˇScˇasny, M., A consumption-based indicator of the external costs of electricity. Ecological Indicators, 17, 68–76. (
Weisser, D. (2007). A guide to life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electric supply technologies. Energy, 32, 1543–1559. (
Wilshire, H.G., Nielson, J.E., & Hazlett, R.W. (2008). The American West at Risk: Science, Myths, and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery. Oxford University Press. (
Wirba, A.V., Mas'ud, A.A., Muhammad-Sukki, F., Ahmad, S., Tahar, R.M., Rahim, R.A, Munir, A.B., & Karim, M.E. (2015). Renewable energy potentials in Cameroon: prospects and challenges. Renewable Energy, 76, 560–5. (
Wiser, R., Millstein, D., Mai, T., Macknick, J., Carpenter, A., Cohen, S., Cole, W., & Frew, B.G. (2016). Heath. The environmental and public health benefits of achieving high penetrations of solar energy in the United States. Energy, 113, 472–486. (
World Energy Council. (2016). World Energy Resources. Available from: ((>; 2016).
World Health Organization (WHO). (2006). Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health, (
World Health Organization (WHOa). (2018). Climate change. Available from: ( [Accessed on 01 July 2018].
World Health Organization (WHO). (2018b). Climate change and health, Key facts. Available from: ( [Accessed on 12 May 2019].
World Nuclear Association (WNA). (2011). Comparison of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of various electricity generation sources. Available from:(>; 2011)
World Nuclear Association (WNA). (2017). Social cost ies of electricity generation. Available from: (https: // information-library/economic-aspects/social cost ies-of-electricity generation aspx>, 2017). [Accessed 09 May 2019].
World Nuclear Organization. (2021). Nuclear Fuel Cycle Overview. overview. [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Wu, B.F., Chen, Y.B., Zeng, Y., Zhao, Y., & Yuan, C. (2011). Evaluation on the effectiveness of carbon emission reduction of the power generation and shipping functions of the Three Gorges Reservoir. Resources and Environment in the Yangtze Basin, 20, 257–261. (
Xu, X., Tan, Y., & Yang, G. (2013). Environmental impact assessments of the Three Gorges Project in China: Issues and interventions. Earth-Science Reviews, 124, 115-125. (
Yang, S.L., Zhang, J., & Xu, X. J. (2007). Influence of the Three Gorges Dam on downstream delivery of sediment and its environmental implications, Yangtze River, Geophysical Research Letters. Open access. Available from: (, 2007).
Zhang, J.X., Liu, Z.J., & Sun, X.X. (2009). Changing landscape in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area of Yangtze River from 1977 to 2005: Land use/land cover, vegetation cover changes estimated using multi-source satellite data. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 11, 403-412. (
Zvingilaite, E. (2011). Human health-related social cost ies in energy system modeling the case of the Danish heat and power sector. Applied Energy, 88, 535–544. (