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Assessing potential spatial trade-offs between renewable energy expansion and biodiversity conservation

Assessing potential spatial trade-offs between renewable energy expansion and biodiversity conservation
Assessing potential spatial trade-offs between renewable energy expansion and biodiversity conservation
Energy systems need decarbonisation in order to limit global warming to within safe limits. Unfettered climate change has the potential to greatly exacerbate species extinctions already much higher than historic baselines. Renewable energy technologies, especially solar photovoltaic and wind, have the potential to greatly aid in this decarbonisation but there are concerns as to the land required when compared to conventional, energy-dense, fuels. This is especially true given the urgent need to demarcate more land for biodiversity conservation. However, attempts to evidence these land concerns are hindered by lack of quality spatial data. This thesis shows, using newly generated spatially explicit data, that the expansion of renewable energy and biodiversity conservation do not necessarily conflict. I find, using a novel global, open access, harmonised dataset of onshore wind and solar photovoltaic installations, that although there are currently numerous overlaps with areas of conservation importance worldwide, echoing previous studies, when historic distributions are taken into account there is no evidence that energy-biodiversity conflict is set to increase in the future. I also find that although priority areas for biodiversity conservation have been identified well in prior work, identification of priority areas for renewable energy needs improvement. The results presented here suggest that more thoughtful planning of renewable energy can ensure no more potential impact on biodiversity than expected under a business as usual development scenario. I anticipate the data will support more research into what drives renewable energy siting, as well as providing a potential avenue for civil society to assess governmental progress towards clean energy objectives, for example Target 7.1 and 7.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, the methods here provide a framework into which local impacts of renewable energy on biodiversity can be incorporated when they are better known.
University of Southampton
Dunnett, Sebastian Lionel
b1fb2503-c353-4b6c-bb29-0a2e82f04c1f
Dunnett, Sebastian Lionel
b1fb2503-c353-4b6c-bb29-0a2e82f04c1f
Eigenbrod, Felix
43efc6ae-b129-45a2-8a34-e489b5f05827

Dunnett, Sebastian Lionel (2020) Assessing potential spatial trade-offs between renewable energy expansion and biodiversity conservation. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 162pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Energy systems need decarbonisation in order to limit global warming to within safe limits. Unfettered climate change has the potential to greatly exacerbate species extinctions already much higher than historic baselines. Renewable energy technologies, especially solar photovoltaic and wind, have the potential to greatly aid in this decarbonisation but there are concerns as to the land required when compared to conventional, energy-dense, fuels. This is especially true given the urgent need to demarcate more land for biodiversity conservation. However, attempts to evidence these land concerns are hindered by lack of quality spatial data. This thesis shows, using newly generated spatially explicit data, that the expansion of renewable energy and biodiversity conservation do not necessarily conflict. I find, using a novel global, open access, harmonised dataset of onshore wind and solar photovoltaic installations, that although there are currently numerous overlaps with areas of conservation importance worldwide, echoing previous studies, when historic distributions are taken into account there is no evidence that energy-biodiversity conflict is set to increase in the future. I also find that although priority areas for biodiversity conservation have been identified well in prior work, identification of priority areas for renewable energy needs improvement. The results presented here suggest that more thoughtful planning of renewable energy can ensure no more potential impact on biodiversity than expected under a business as usual development scenario. I anticipate the data will support more research into what drives renewable energy siting, as well as providing a potential avenue for civil society to assess governmental progress towards clean energy objectives, for example Target 7.1 and 7.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, the methods here provide a framework into which local impacts of renewable energy on biodiversity can be incorporated when they are better known.

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Published date: 22 September 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 446664
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/446664
PURE UUID: 38fbc2da-11ae-41ee-86f4-4db1f6fd1e63
ORCID for Sebastian Lionel Dunnett: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4238-2508
ORCID for Felix Eigenbrod: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8982-824X

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Date deposited: 17 Feb 2021 17:32
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:15

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Contributors

Author: Sebastian Lionel Dunnett ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Felix Eigenbrod ORCID iD

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