Energy Sprawl: the development of land and water area required for energy production
Welcome to this special feature looking at solutions to the global challenge of “energy sprawl”, solutions that will help repower the planet in a sustainable way.
Predictions show a 65 percent increase in energy demand by 2050. To ensure a path to a stable climate, the world must increase its renewable energy development dramatically as the centerpiece of this expansion.
However, all energy sources present trade-offs. If we don’t plan the world’s needed energy development carefully, the resulting “energy sprawl", land and water area required for energy production, could cause unnecessary loss of important ecosystem services, potentially exacerbate conflicts over land use and pose a major threat to global biodiversity.
Solving this challenge is about making smart large-scale planning the new norm, anticipating our future energy needs, knowing the right energy mix and optimizing where to place it. In doing so, we can take advantage of the opportunity to reduce the land-use footprint of renewables, safeguard ecosystem-services and biodiversity, and even potentially accelerate the needed transition to renewable energy. It’s about finding a truly sustainable path to repowering the planet.
Explore our interactive Energy Sprawl tool to visualize the trade-offs between energy, carbon emissions and land use based on the world’s projected energy needs. And take a look at our set of short case studies from around the world showcasing how countries are already finding solutions to these challenges.
New resource: Energy Sprawl Solutions: Balancing Global Development and Conservation
Nature Conservancy scientist Joseph M. Kiesecker is a lead editor (alongside scientist David E. Naugle) of a new book, Energy Sprawl Solutions: Balancing Global Development and Conservation (Publication Date: June 15, 2017). The book provides a roadmap for an energy future that conserves functional and connected ecosystems. The key to success, they show, is identifying the right energy mix and where to place it. This commonsense solution involves identifying and preemptively setting aside land where biodiversity should be protected, while consolidating energy development in areas with lower conservation value.