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ENERGIX-Stort program energi

Contributing to sustainable energy systems in Norway: quantifying life-cycle impacts on biodiversity

Alternative title: Et bidrag til bærekraftige energisystemer i Norge: kvantifisere påvirkninger på biologisk mangfold i et livssyklusperspektiv

Awarded: NOK 5.4 mill.

Electricity is vital for our everyday live. Heating our homes, cooking, lights for reading and many other applications require electricity, that we often use without thinking about its origin and its potential impacts. However, all electricity generation has potential impacts on human health and the environment, be it from the burning of fossil fuels, the building of infrastructure, the damming of rivers or the displacement by wind turbines. In addition, powerlines are needed between the point of electricity generation and the point of use and they may pose additional impacts. Collision with powerlines and electrocution, for example, may kill millions of birds every year (Loss et al., 2014, 2015). The United Nations (UN) have defined several sustainable development goals (SDGs). Maximising renewable energy production and minimizing biodiversity impacts are two of them, however there might be trade-offs between them. Our project aims to investigate the impacts of powerlines on birds and mammals in Norway. We will develop models to assess which species are most impacted and in which areas of Norway impacts are highest. We do this with a life cycle perspective, i.e. we aim to take all impacts into account that are generated throughout the entire life cycle of energy production. We start by deveoping impact assessment models for today's power system today, but will add future expansion scenarios later on. Such an approach will allow for an evaluation how to minimize possible negative impacts. This will contribute to highlighting and minimizing the trade-offs between the sustainable development goals of the United Nations and bring us one step closer to a more holistic sustainability.


Norway is committed to contribute to reaching the aims of the international community regarding e.g. the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. However, trade-offs exist between several of these goals, such as between maximizing the production of renewable electricity and the related impacts on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. In order to comprehensively understand and minimize these trade-offs, it is important to develop approaches that can quantify the impacts of renewable energy systems with a life cycle perspective and a systems-wide approach. A method that is widely used for assessing and comparing such impacts is life cycle assessment (LCA). Building upon existing projects (e.g. BIRDPOL, OPTIPOL, ConSite, SURE), we will develop and apply a model that assesses the impacts of electricity distribution on mammals and birds in Norway. This model will be based on species-specific responses to power lines, species distribution models, and species-area relationships to identify exposure hotspots. By harmonizing the method with models quantifying impacts of electricity generation (i.e., hydropower and wind energy production) we identify where and which species are particularly impacted by the electricity supply system, both for the current situation and possible future expansion scenarios. These results will be the first to represent a systems-wide analysis of biodiversity impacts of electricity production in Norway. While our results will be specific for Norway, the modelling principles are transferable to any other region worldwide, thus having international relevance. This knowledge is of high relevance to policy-makers and NGOs, in order to strive towards a minimization of impacts on ecosystems (as stipulated in SDGs 6 and 15), while maximizing the renewable electricity production (SDG7). Our results will be disseminated to other scientists and used for educating next generation researchers and policy-makers.

Funding scheme:

ENERGIX-Stort program energi