Spatial context matters: Assessing how future renewable energy pathways will impact nature and society

Gemma Delafield, Greg S. Smith, Brett Day, Robert A. Holland, Caspar Donnison, Astley Hastings, Gail Taylor, Nathan Owen, Andrew Lovett

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Pathways to decarbonisation are commonly explored by government and industry through the use of energy system models. However, such models rarely consider where new energy infrastructure might be located. This is problematic as the spatial context of new renewable energy infrastructure will determine, in part, the environmental, social, and technical impacts of the energy transition. This paper presents the ADVENT-NEV model which brings together innovations in energy and natural capital modelling to identify the optimal locations of multiple renewable energy technologies at a national scale and high spatial resolution. Using Great Britain as a case study, the results show how the spatial distribution of renewable energy technologies changes when a natural capital approach is taken. In particular, the least-cost locations for onshore wind farms and bioenergy crops are highly influenced by the value of carbon sequestration, or emissions associated with their land use change. Siting using a natural capital approach produced appreciable ecosystem service benefits, such that the overall welfare gain to society was estimated at nearly £25 B. Overall, this paper demonstrates that understanding the geospatial context of the energy transition is essential to identifying which renewable energy pathways are consistent with decarbonisation and environmental objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number119385
JournalRenewable Energy
Early online date7 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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