Incorporating ecosystem services into the design of future energy systems

Robert A. Holland*, Nicola Beaumont, Tara Hooper, Melanie Austen, Robert J.K. Gross, Philip J. Heptonstall, Ioanna Ketsopoulou, Mark Winskel, Jim Watson, Gail Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

There is increasing recognition that a whole systems approach is required to inform decisions on future energy options. Based on a qualitative and quantitative analysis of forty influential energy and ecosystem services scenario exercises, we consider how the benefits to society that are derived from the natural environment are integrated within current energy scenarios. The analysis demonstrates a set of common underlying themes across scenario exercises. These include the relative contribution of fossil sources of energy, rates of decarbonisation, the level of international cooperation and globalisation, rate of technological development and deployment, and societies focus on environmental sustainability. Across energy scenario exercises, ecosystem services consideration is primarily limited to climate regulation, food, water resources, and air quality. In contrast, ecosystem services scenarios consider energy systems in a highly aggregated narrative form, with impacts of energy options mediated primarily through climate and land use change. Emerging data and tools offer opportunities for closer integration of energy and ecosystem services scenarios. This can be achieved by incorporating into scenarios exercises both monetary and non-monetary values of ecosystem services, and increasing the spatial representation of both energy systems and ecosystem services. The importance of ecosystem services for human well-being is increasingly recognised in policy at local, national and international scales. Tighter integration of energy and ecosystem service scenarios exercises will allow policy makers to identify pathways consistent with international obligations relating to both anthropogenic climate change and the loss and degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-822
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ecosystem services
  • energy
  • scenarios
  • self organising map (SOM)


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