ADVENT (Addressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Bartlett Sch of Env, Energy & Resources

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.

Publications

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Pearson RG (2016) Reasons to Conserve Nature. in Trends in ecology & evolution

 
Description Our work on the drivers of air emissions from industrial sector has highlighted the importance of market competition and energy consumption as factors influencing emissions affecting human health and the environment. Other factors previously thought to affect emissions from industrial sector (such production inputs) has been proved not to be important drovers. This has important policy implications due toour work establishing a link between competition policy and environmental policy and affirming independence between for example labour policy and environmental policy.
Exploitation Route This was a very innovative approach implemented for the UK so we would expect this methodology to be taken up by researchers from abroad to verify if our findings hold across countries
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description Indicators on carbon and energy intensity to assess progress against the UK decarbonisation pathway - Committee on Climate Change (CCC)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Our work on emissions from the industrial sector the has been taken up by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to develop indicators to track progress on carbon intensity (emissions per unit energy used) and energy intensity (energy used per unit GVA) improvements in industry, i.e. metrics being used by the CCC to assess progress against the CCC's recommended decarbonisation pathway for industry, consistent with economy-wide carbon budgets and the UK 2050 GHG target. Our contribution has been acknowledged in the introduction of the 2018 Progress Report to Parliament
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CCC-2018-Progress-Report-to-Parliament.pdf
 
Title UK Emissions from Industrial Sector 
Description We developed a statistical model to explain the factors driving air emissions from industrial sectors in the UK. Work has been submitted to academic journals, presented in conferences, i.e.UKNEE conference. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Work on this model has spearheaded engagement of ADVENT with the Committee on Climate Change in relation to the energy consumption and emissions in the UK industrial sector. 
 
Description Liaison with SECURE Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I attended a meeting of the SECURE network and liaised with current members in relation to the role of our (ADVENT) project. This created interest in the activities undertaken in ADVENT. I was later asked if I wanted to participate in the next SECURE network funding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description UKNEE Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of our paper "Industrial characteristics and air emissions: long-term determinants in the UK manufacturing sector" at the UKNEE conference, held in London on 09/03/2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017