ADVENT (ADdressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences

Abstract

The UK Government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the environment. Delivering on these parallel objectives, however, involves numerous tensions. Future low-carbon energy pathways that, for example, depend on the sourcing of feedstocks through hydraulic fracking have implications for the availability of clean water and hence for the ecosystem services such resources provide to other industrial, domestic or agricultural users. Likewise, pathways that envisage more wind farms have implications for the quality of the natural landscape and the cultural ecosystem services people derive from the visual enjoyment of those landscapes.

The central objective of this project is to explore future UK low-carbon energy pathways and quantify their differing implications for stocks of natural capital (e.g. groundwater and natural habitats) and for the provision of ecosystem services (e.g. irrigation, visual amenity, recreation). In addition, the project will apply methods of economic valuation to estimate in money terms the value of the ecosystem service changes associated with different future energy pathway. Ultimately, the project seeks to provide policy makers with tools that allow them to take a whole-systems perspective on energy futures in a way that integrates energy and environmental considerations into a single framework.

The research programme will begin with workshops bringing together members of the valuing nature and energy futures research communities. The aim will be to encourage discussion between the participants and to arrive at a shared understanding of the conceptual framework that should underpin the research as well as to establish the baseline of existing knowledge.

Part of that knowledge base will be a description of the particular future energy pathways to be explored in the project. The next task for the research team will be to develop a detailed life cycle characterisation of each pathway. Drawing on previous research, the project will then identify the anticipated ecosystem service impacts of each particular element of a pathway. And, where available, collate evidence regarding the estimated value of those various impacts.

For numerous elements, however, those impacts and/or values may be unknown. Indeed, the project will seek to fill those knowledge gaps through a set of case studies. These will explore aspects of bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, visual disamenity, impacts on marine recreation biodiversity consequences and the impacts of infrastructure to reduce energy demand.

Drawing on the results, the research will then seek to integrate the available evidence so as to assess the environmental impacts of each energy pathway in its entirety. To that end, the project will build on previous work by extending two complementary modelling platforms. The first is a micro-economic model that allows for a spatially-disaggregated exploration of the impacts of each pathway. The second employs macro-economic modelling to understand how natural capital use in different pathways impacts on the broad functioning of the economy and concomitant implications for growth, jobs and trade. To provide a holistic assessment of each pathway, a further work stream will quantify the international implications for natural capital and ecosystems services of UK decisions on future energy systems.

The findings will be made available to academics and policy makers through an extensive programme of dissemination and knowledge exchange. In addition, through training a cohort of PhD studentships, the project seeks to leave a legacy of academic capacity focused on the interface between energy and the environment. Together, the new knowledge and expertise delivered by the project will provide a major contribution to ensuring that energy and natural capital policies can be developed in a coherent manner for the maximal benefit of society as a whole.

Planned Impact

In addition to the academic community, we envisage three groups of key beneficiaries from the research: (i) government departments and public policy makers; (ii) private sector companies in the energy, water and agriculture sectors; and (iii) the public and society more generally. Our communication, engagement and dissemination plans are described in the Pathways to Impact document. Here we outline the expected impacts of these combined activities.

National Decision-Makers:

A fundamental objective of this project is to quantify and value the natural capital and ecosystem services impacts of different energy pathways. Moreover, based on that knowledge, the project will develop decision-support tools that provide a whole-system assessment of different energy futures. Accordingly, the project's outputs will have direct importance to numerous decision-making agencies including the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Each of those agencies has immediate needs for tools that will allow them to assess and compare different possible energy pathways across both the energy and environment spheres. The project will also provide inputs for agencies involved in national policy making regarding natural capital, particularly the on-going development of natural capital accounts being pursued by the National Capital Committee (NCC), Office of National Statistics (ONS) and HM Treasury (HMT). The research team have long track-records of collaboration with each of these organisations ensuring the project's findings will have a pathway for direct dissemination to the relevant decision-making bodies.

Regional Decision-Makers:

In addition, the project will undertake a number of case studies whose regional focus will provide valuable input to local decision-makers. For instance, research on public attitudes to potential marine energy developments in the Bristol Channel-Severn Estuary (WP5.6) will be of interest to Local Enterprise Partnerships given the economic importance of tourism in the region. Similarly, the work on implications of changes in energy consumption in north-eastern Scotland will be of relevance to unitary authorities within the region with respect to strategic planning and decisions regarding future infrastructure investments.

Private Sector:

Outputs of the project will also be of direct relevance to a number of businesses and organisations in the private sector. The strategic planning of energy companies will be particularly enhanced by better understanding of potential environmental impacts from their operations and how natural capital considerations might constrain these in the future. Similarly, the water supply industry has an obvious interest in the implications of future energy pathways for water resources and how these could influence future investments in abstraction, treatment and distribution infrastructure. The agricultural sector also stand to benefit from project's outputs. In particular, the project will provide insights into possible future demands for bioenergy and spatial variations in the availability of water for irrigation purposes. In addition, the project will provide information directly relevant to businesses in the energy, water and food sectors with interests in developing corporate natural capital accounts.

Public and Wider Society:

The final group to be impacted by the project will be society more generally. The project's outputs will help ensure that the public's valuation of important natural assets such as green spaces used for recreation and landscapes enjoyed for their visual amenity are meaningfully represented in decisions concerning future energy pathways. These insights will also be relevant to the work of many environmental NGOs such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and county wildlife trusts.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/M019764/1 30/06/2015 30/06/2021
1789894 Studentship NE/M019764/1 01/09/2016 31/08/2020 Sebastian Dunnett
1790094 Studentship NE/M019764/1 30/09/2016 30/09/2020 Caspar Donnison
 
Description Our research, although at a preliminary stage has quantified the impact of energy demand on global water resources and this research published in PNAS in 2015 is being taken forward by many international organisations, with requests from EU and wider.
we have taken an important step forward in resolving the different approaches to scenario development taken by the energy and environment communities and published a paper that compares and contrasts these approaches (Holland et al 2018).
Exploitation Route Understanding the global water consequences of energy demand is a high profile topic of wide significance to the NEXUS between energy, food and land use. Our findings are relevant to UK and other Government and policy developments.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/funded/programmes/valuingnaturalcapital/
 
Description Appointed to Advisory Group, Committee on Climate Change, Bioenergy Review
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/bioenergy-review-2018-call-evidence/
 
Description Member of the Strategic Advisory Group on Bioenergy for Energy Technology Institute
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The outputs of the Energy Technology Institute on Bioenergy deployment for the UK have been used in evidence to develop policy on bioenergy strategy going forward. Not least, this includes input into the UK energy System Modelling Environment ESME, following advice fro the Strategic Advisory Group. Several policy documents were published by ETI.
URL http://www.eti.co.uk/programmes/bioenergy
 
Description Bioenergy Value Chains: Whole System Analysis and Optimisation
Amount £1,560,068 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K036734/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2013 
End 08/2017
 
Description MAGLUE - Measurement and Analysis of bioenergy greenhouse gases: integrating GHGs into LCAs and the UK bioenergy value chain modelling environment
Amount £1,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M013200/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 02/2018
 
Description Joint meeting to discuss integration of global data 
Organisation University College London
Department UCL Energy Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A number of joint meeting held primarily between SOTON, UCL and Leeds Universities to discuss integration of global scale data and analysis within the UKERC Resource and Vectors theme. Have drawn up joint workplan and produced initial results.
Collaborator Contribution A number of joint meeting held primarily between SOTON, UCL and Leeds Universities to discuss integration of global scale data and analysis within the UKERC Resource and Vectors theme. Have drawn up joint workplan and produced initial results.
Impact R Holland presented "Integration of biodiversity and ecosystem services into future energy scenarios - lessons learned and next steps." At Bioenergy 2017 in Manchester on the 22nd March drawing on research across a number of RCUK projects including ADVENT http://www.supergen-bioenergy.net/conference/abstracts---day-1/
Start Year 2016
 
Description Assessing natural Capital in UK overseas territories 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Attended meeting in London convened by the JNCC to discuss approaches for assessing Natural Capital in UK overseas territories.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=7443
 
Description Attendance and presentation at the International Bioenergy Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Gail Taylor Chaired and organised a session at this international conference. Two presentations were made from the project, one by Dr Zoe Harris on measurements of GHG balance and one by Dr Robert Holland on wider consideration of ecosystem services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://bioenergy2014.co.uk/
 
Description Miscanthus field visit and information day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Up to 50 farmers, policymakers and innovation focused researchers from Wales, UK and Europe visited Aberystwyth University Miscanthus trial sites including a 6 ha site long term site for environmental monitoring and providing material for animal bedding, a local livestock farmer using Miscanthus as animal bedding for sheep and cattle, and new variety trials at approx. 1,000 feet at the Aberystwyth University Pwllpeiran experimental farm. The visit attracted questions and interest from farmers, and policymakers on the alternative uses for Miscanthus beyond energy and also the ability to grow it in the uplands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Organised and participated in a workshop 'Spatial modelling of socio-economic systems' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact ADVENT and University of Southampton co-funded PhD workshop on 'Spatial Modelling Socio-ecological systems' on Nov 7 & 8, 2017 in Geography at the University of Southampton led by Dr Felix Eigenbrod. This two-day workshop - which was attended by all ADVENT PhD students as well as some other Southampton students working on socio-ecological questions - consisted of a morning lecture by Dr Eigenbrod on key issues in modelling socio-ecological systems, followed by an R practical on integrating different socio-ecological datasets in R (led by Dr Laura Graham (not ADVENT)). The second day was led by the PhD students and consisted of talks on their research and discussions of ADVENT PhD student led future work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Providing evidence to Committee on Climate Change for the 2018 Bioenergy Review 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact R Holland (SOTON) discussed ongoing work with Jenny Hill from the Committee on Climate Change and the possibility of contributing to their bioenergy and land use reviews due to be published end of 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/bioenergy-review-2018-call-evidence/
 
Description Visit to Drax and interaction with power generation industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact R Holland (SOTON) visited Drax powerstation together with Casper Donnison (Soton ADVENT PhD) and Astley Hastings (Aberdeen) and met sustainability team. Discussed ongoing work within UKERC relating to international implications of UK energy. Subsequent follow up meetings to discuss areas for joint research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017