Blog by Ruth Welters.
How do you value natural capital in low carbon energy pathways? What does it mean?
I went to a 2-day meeting in Warwick on 21 & 22 July 2014 to find out.
The meeting was run by NERC and the aim was to get researchers from the worlds of energy and natural capital to meet, talk and form research partnerships as the NERC ‘Valuing Natural Capital in Low Carbon Energy Pathways‘ programme kicks off.
I know a bit about valuing natural capital from working on the Valuing Nature Network over the past couple of years but I must admit I knew less about energy. So I was interested to hear what Jim Watson from the The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) had to say on the changes to the UK energy supply system as north sea oil and gas reserves decline and new sources, including renewables become more important.
This introduction then moved onto an interesting discussion about the sort of frameworks that the natural environment people use, compared to those used by the energy sector. That is: environmental frameworks tend to be circular (such as the one devised by the Valuing Nature Network) but energy pathways have traditionally been seen as linear; energy is generated – supplied and then used. And that’s it.
So a big challenge in bringing these different viewpoints together will be finding a way conceptualise what they are talking about.
Which led onto another big question: is energy a service in the same sense as other ecosystem services?
It was argued that people don’t value energy itself but rather the the things that energy provides for us such as heat and light and the things it enables us to do like travel by train, car and air.
Well there were no clear-cut answers to these questions, but we did enjoy the rest of the time engaged in some speed-dating and workshops on what the world would look like if the 4 goals of the programme were met and heard some thought provoking talks from potential users of the research, such as Ofgem and the RSPB.
If you are interested in applying for money in this programme, the call is open til 18 Sept 2014 and all the details are on the NERC website.