Assessing the global and local impacts on ecosystem services of energy provision in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences


Energy provision in the UK impacts upon ecosystems locally, elsewhere in the UK and elsewhere in the world. For example, impacts of a coal-fired power-station may occur locally where the power station is sited, but also where the coal is mined (often outside the UK); nuclear power may have local terrestrial and marine impacts around the power station, but also has impacts from uranium mining and long term storage of spent fuel and contaminated items elsewhere; bioenergy has local impacts where grown, but may also displace other land uses, which may cause compensatory land use change elsewhere in the UK or elsewhere in the world: wind power may have both local and distant impacts around the land-based or offshore turbine field, and also has impacts associated with embedded products in the turbines and related infrastructure. The purpose of this project is to assess the local and global impacts on Ecosystem Services (ESs) from energy provision in the UK. We will use four energy technologies to develop a consistent methodology which could then be applied to other technologies. We will take a full life cycle approach to assess local and global ES impacts of coal, nuclear, wind (land-based and offshore - including Round 3 wind energy arrays) and bioenergy power in the UK. Global ES impacts occur when feedstocks and infrastructure are sourced from abroad and but also when the environmental impacts cover a wide geographic area e.g. fisheries, C storage, emission plumes. The tasks are interlinked. The project will be conducted in four WPs, largely relating to the objectives described above: WP1 identifies the location of where the impacts occur. WP2 identifies the impacts on ecosystem services in these locations as described in detail below. WP3 applies the methodologies and provides a synthesis of current impacts comparing across the technologies. WP4 extends the analysis to assess ES impacts for projections of potential UK future energy pathways (from UKERC 2050 and MARKAL).

Planned Impact

Our objective is to engage with stakeholders from industry, NGOs and science to contribute to this first ever assessment of the global impacts on ecosystem services of UK energy technologies. We seek to access the best available data and optimise the research and subsequent knowledge exchange. The methods developed can be used by the energy and associated industries and other stakeholders to be used in future environmental impact assessments. This is genuine knowledge exchange rather than knowledge transfer, since the industry and other stakeholders will provide input through the project, as well as a review of outputs at the end of the project.

The proposers will seek input / suggestions from UKERC and UKERC's high level Advisory Board for experts / stakeholders to engage with throughout the project, but we have already identified the following user groups who will benefit from knowledge exchange facilitated by this project (and the project will receive reciprocal benefits):

- Industry and trade associations with a specific interest in the energy technologies considered and the industry partners themselves (e.g.
British Coal, British Energy, large power utilities such as EON and Scottish Power)
- Policy makers and government agencies and regulators related to energy and environment policy (e.g. MPs, MSPs, MEPs, Marine
Scotland, Environment Agency, SEPA, DECC, Defra, The Crown Estate).
- Conservation agencies, e.g. Natural England, SNH & the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
- Environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace, FoE, WWF.
- Research communities e.g. coordinators and key players in international and national ecosystem service programs (e.g. UKNEA)
- Inter governmental organisations such as IEA.

The stakeholder group will be established early in the project and will attend an early project meeting (month 3) - and also an evaluation meeting in month 21. The research findings will directly inform these stakeholders on the wider impacts of UK energy technologies on global ecosystem services. In terms of scientific impact, the proposers consider that this ambitious and novel project will result in a number of high-impact journal publications, with one or two of them suitable for publication in Nature or Science. If this is achieved, scientific impact could not be higher.

At the start of the project, there will be an initial meeting between the project team (WP Leaders and senior partners) and the Stakeholder Board (ahead of the meeting in month 3). The purpose of this meeting is to open up channels of communication between the project team and the Stakeholder Board to establish the key questions and topics of interest specific to the ecosystems impacts of geological storage, from the stakeholders' point of view. The key areas of stakeholder interest established in the first meeting will be addressed and referred to throughout the project. The stakeholders will be invited to attend a mid-term review in month 12. The initial meeting (month 3),mid-term review (month 12) and the evaluation meeting (month 21) will coincide with project meetings to reduce costs.

To facilitate knowledge exchange, the end of project stakeholder workshop (month 21) will be held to present key findings. Invitations will be extended to a broader range of stakeholders. Regular project updates will be hosted on a dedicated project website (linked to UKERC).

We will endeavour to present our research at relevant science and policy conferences as these attract a wide range of direct and indirect stakeholders. In addition we will work with UKERC to produce briefing papers on global ecosystem impacts on UK energy technologies, and work with others (such as POST and SPICE; the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology and the Scottish Parliament Information CEntre) to ensure that the most important project outputs are widely disseminated.


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