The ongoing development of renewable energy and biodiversity conservation can complement each other whilst interfering with one another’s goals. Land-based wind energy will remain, in a mid-term perspective, the most efficient source of renewable energy. Impact assessment for wind energy’s wildlife implications has brought manifold results within the recent decade. Based on findings so far, a comprehensive variety of mitigation measures has been identified and implemented, for example, macro-avoidance, micro-siting, wind facility design, curtailment, decreasing on-site habitat attractiveness, deterrence, and compensatory mitigation. However, uncertainties about wind energy’s wildlife effects remain, such as the quantification of impacts, the significance of effects on a population level, and the efficacy of mitigation measures. At the same time, ever more detailed Environmental Impact Assessment and planning approaches have been elaborated (e.g., macro-siting with zoning maps, habitat conservation plans, and adaptive management), thus, shaping and balancing trade-offs of renewable energy systems and biodiversity conservation goals. Illustrated by facets of wind energy case studies, we introduce ambitious approaches and discuss the scope of trade-off strategies against more conflictive action taking. This might also contribute to setting an agenda as far as competing ecosystems functions and services are concerned (climate change mitigation vs biodiversity conservation).
Lea Bulling and Johann Köppel
Gesa Geißler, Marie Dahmen and Johann Köppel
The energy sector is of central importance for society and national economies and is associated with significant environmental issues. Energy plans, programs, and sometimes policies are subject to strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in many parts of the world. In Europe, for example, energy plans are explicitly listed in the SEA Directive while in low and middle-income countries energy is, next to transport, the most important sector in which SEAs are prepared. This chapter provides an overview of the current state of research on and practice of SEA in the energy sector. A key message is that SEAs for energy plans, programs and policies have similar shortcomings to SEAs in other sectors. In particular, the assessment of cumulative effects and the consideration of alternatives are currently done poorly. Considering the challenges of the transformation of energy systems to low-carbon or carbon-free states, we suggest that future research should focus on the benefits provided by SEAs. As the energy transition will require the consideration of environmental and social implications in decision-making, practice should recognize the key role SEA can play.