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Decarbonising UK Transport: Implications for Electricity Generation, Land Use and Policy


To ensure the UK’s net zero targets are met, the transition from conventionally fueled transport to low emission alternatives is necessary. The impact from increased decarbonised electricity generation on ecosystem services (ES) and natural capital (NC) are not currently quantified, with decarbonisation required to minimise impacts from climate change. This study aims to project the future electric and hydrogen energy demand between 2020 and 2050 for car, bus, and train to better understand the land/sea area that would be required to support energy generation. In this work, predictions of the geospatial impact of renewable energy (onshore/offshore wind and solar), nuclear and fossil fuels on ES and NC were made, considering generation mix, number of generation installations and energy density. Results show that electric transport will require ~136,599 GWh for all vehicle types analysed in 2050, much less than hydrogen transport at ~425,532 GWh. We estimate that to power electric transport, at least 1515 km2 will be required for solar, 1672 km2 for wind and 5 km2 for nuclear. Hydrogen approximately doubles this requirement. Results provide an approximation of the future demands from the transport sector on land and sea area use, indicating that a combined electric and hydrogen network will be needed to accommodate a range of socio-economic requirements. While robust assessments of ES and NC impacts are critical in future policies and planning, significant reductions in energy demands through a modal shift to (low emission) public transport will be most effective in ensuring a sustainable transport future.

Funding source: This research was undertaken as part of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) research programme under the ADdressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together (ADVENT) project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/M019691/1) United Kingdom. Funding was also received from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways

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