Spatial scaling

Incorporating the environmental implications of energy technologies into decision making is contingent on knowledge of how local impacts will scale nationally and internationally. Current energy system models, such as those used by the UK government and industry (e.g. UK-TIMES, ETI Biomass Value Chain, etc.), often use indices of sustainability based on highly aggregated data. The first phase of this work will make substantial methodological advances by identifying the conditions

  1. where such aggregation is appropriate,
  2. where spatial and/or temporal disaggregation is necessary in order properly inform energy policy, and
  3. how state of the art methods, from disciplines such as landscape and industrial ecology, can be used to better inform understanding of environmental impacts of energy systems.

This research will be conducted at two complimentary spatial scales. At the UK scale it will draw on empirical evidence gathered to carry out detailed analysis of the influence of scale on our understanding of interactions between energy systems, biodiversity and natural capital within models with UK relevance. At the global scale work will be based on an existing set of indicators used within consumption based accounting and be modelled at national and sub-national scale to identify the influence that this has on conclusion of the international impact of UK energy pathways.

This work will provide practical recommendations regarding the appropriate spatial scales for incorporating data into energy system models addressing issues of sustainability. Globally, the enhanced understanding of scale arising from the UK focused analysis will allow us to identify, develop and/or enhance appropriate global models to represent international implications of UK energy choices, including models developed during ADVENT and UKERC Phase 3. The indices will be refined to be directly relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and so will resonate with policy makers.

Geopolitics and international trade

The second phase of the work will focus on interactions with the UK Energy in a Global Context activities. Insights on the shifting geopolitical landscape of the energy sector and the influence that this will have on trade will be linked to our newly developed and refined global models representing the interactions between energy system, biodiversity and natural capital. This work builds on techniques developed in Phase 3 of UKERC utilising techniques such as EE-MRIO and gravity models to examine the international implications of UK energy choices. These models will be updated to reflect outputs from the Spatial Scaling project (above) and with inputs from the UK Energy in a Global Context on changes in trade associated with changing geopolitical landscape. Here our focus will be on providing policy makers with the evidence that that they need to understand UK energy policy within a wider international and environmental context.