UKERC Energy Strategies Under Uncertainty - Interactions between the Energy System, Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital

01 Apr 2014
Energy Strategies Under Uncertainty

This research examines the impacts and uncertainties on ecosystem services (ES) and natural capital both within the UK and externally, relating to possible changes in power generation within the UK energy system.

It reviews the current state of evidence on the environmental impacts of generation and supply for nuclear, gas, onshore wind, offshore wind and biomass (domestically produced Miscanthus and Short Rotation Coppice as a feedstock for power generation) as these feature strongly in future energy mix scenarios through to 2030 presented in the 4th Carbon Budget. For natural gas there was also assessment of the potential consequences given wider adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques and fracking.

The impacts on ecosystem services of each supply option were summarised in a series of matrices. Each matrix sought to describe the energy supply system under evaluation in terms of the life-cycle processes involved (rows) and their impacts on ecosystem services (columns). Life cycle stages were categorised as upstream (infrastructure provision), fuel cycle (extraction/production and processing of feedstock), operation (power production) and downstream (decommissioning). Twenty seven ecosystem services were classified as supporting (processes and functions), provisioning (nutrition, water, materials, energy), regulation and maintenance (wastes, flow; physical, chemical and biotic environment) and cultural (use and intrinsic value).