This report provides a broad overview of 15 energy technologies identified by JNCC, including their life cycle carbon dioxide reduction potential and their other environmental impacts. It then focuses on eight key technologies that are likely to have the most significant impacts on the environment over the next 50 years (namely coal, oil, gas, nuclear, wind, tidal stream and range, biomass crops and biofuels). The report describes and whenever possible quantifies the likely impacts of the key UK energy technologies, in the light of current capacity and a selection of published future scenarios for the UK energy mix for 2020 and 2050.
The analysis primarily investigates the impacts of the key energy technologies on biodiversity (particularly regarding UK BAP Priority habitats and UK BAP priority birds). In addition, significant implications for geodiversity (ie the variety of rocks, minerals and landforms), landscape and access to nature are identified. The focus is on impacts to the UK environment, but insights on wider global environmental impacts are provided when relevant.
The review provides clear evidence that energy production can have significant detrimental impacts on the environment, particularly as a result of land take and habitat change (especially from open cast coal mining, tidal barrages, biomass and biofuels), disturbance (eg seismic surveys for oil and gas production, infrastructure construction such as new power plants and transmission systems, and wind farm operation), pollution (eg from oil spills, acid mine drainage from coal pits, biofuels and especially eutrophication impacts from nitrogen oxides from coal power stations), and the accidental killing of some species (eg by power lines, wind turbines and tidal barrages).
It is also clear that more comprehensive and detailed monitoring needs to be undertaken of the impacts of energy developments, during their construction, operational and decommissioning phases. Such monitoring should assess the effectiveness of project level mitigation measures as well as the overall cumulative effects of energy policies on landscapes, geodiversity resources, habitats and species populations.