NERC invests £2 million in exploring low-carbon futures for the UK

30 June 2015

Through the Valuing Natural Capital programme, NERC is investing up to £2 million in research to investigate how possible future scenarios for UK energy would affect vital resources like groundwater and natural habitats – known as 'natural capital' - as well as 'ecosystem services' - the important benefits that nature gives us, from irrigation to our enjoyment of wild environments.

Sunset behind wind turbines

For example, future energy pathways that envisage more wind farms have implications for the quality of natural landscapes and the cultural ecosystem services people derive from their enjoyment of those landscapes.

The future energy pathways will include the kind of steps the UK will need to take in order to meet its energy policy goals of maintaining energy security, keeping energy affordable and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Professor Andrew Lovett of the University of East Anglia will lead the project, called Addressing Valuation of Energy & Nature Together (ADVENT). Researchers from the University of Aberdeen, University College London, the University of Leeds, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Southampton are also involved, bringing in substantial expertise in energy and environmental research.

The scientists' primary objective is to explore future UK low-carbon energy pathways and quantify what they would mean for stocks of natural capital and for the provision of ecosystem services. The project will also apply methods of economic valuation to estimate in money terms the value of the ecosystem service changes associated with different future energy pathways. The project will give policymakers the tools they need to analyse different energy futures in a way that brings energy and environmental considerations together into a single framework.

The project forms NERC's contribution to the third phase of the UK Energy Research Centre - external link (UKERC) - 'The UK energy transition in an uncertain world: challenges and trade-offs'. UKERC carries out world-class research into sustainable future energy systems and acts a focal point for UK energy research and a gateway between the UK and the international energy research communities. UKERC is funded by the RCUK Energy Programme, and is managed on behalf of the funders by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).