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Energy Use and Carbon Emissions from E-Commerce: Implications for a Decarbonized Future

Project Leads

Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis; Co-Director of the Sustainable Freight Research Program, Institute of Transportation Studies




Project Description

E-commerce has seen rapid growth in recent years and has only accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic not only affected e-commerce adoption, but also generated changes in frequency and magnitude of consumption patterns. Retailers and e-retailers have been implementing logistics strategies to take advantage of this rise in e-commerce with significant implications for energy usage and carbon emissions.

The objective of this study is to quantify energy usage and carbon emissions in retail distribution through the development and design of several scenarios. The scenarios will focus on consumption trends and recent changes in consumer behavior, new distribution network designs and capacities, changes in delivery modes and vehicle technologies, and public and private decarbonization efforts.

The research team will review the recent literature and report on behavioral changes in consumption and travel during and “after” COVID. They will explore changes with respect to distribution structures, and innovations in vehicles, fuels, energy, and distribution technologies, and proposed corporate initiatives and commitments. They will design a set of scenarios that could offer insights about the energy use and carbon emissions of different distribution structures.

The project will result in projections of energy use and carbon emissions from retail and new distribution channels, the identification of factors with the largest energy and emissions impacts, and recommended interventions. The team will develop scenarios that can play a role in decarbonization efforts and will outline how proposed initiatives and commitments would affect those scenarios.


Project Status:

In progress

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