According to the International Energy Agency, the transition to renewable sources of energy is underway. Renewable power capacity is set to expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024, led by solar PV. This increase of 1,200 GW is equivalent to the total installed power capacity of the United States today. Solar PV alone accounts for almost 60% of the expected growth, with onshore wind representing one-quarter. During this period, renewables are forecast to meet more than 70% of global electricity generation growth, led by solar PV and followed by wind, hydropower and bioenergy (Renewables 2018, International Energy Agency).
However, “clean energy sources” like wind and solar can also impact biodiversity through disturbance and loss of habitat, the generation of noise pollution, collision and other indirect pressures. Therefore, despite the intrinsic and much-needed positive contribution of these renewable technologies to a clean energy future, renewable energy projects need to address the associated risks to biodiversity, throughout the entire project life-cycle -- from design and permitting to the operational and decommissioning phases.
To address the biodiversity risks associated to solar and wind energy projects, IUCN has partnered with EDF, EDP and Shell to establish today's best available measures to mitigate impacts on biodiversity associated with solar and wind power (on-shore and off-shore) projects, along the entire life cycle of a project at the project and landscape level.
As part of this effort, this project will identify key factors that support the screening of biodiversity and ecosystem services risks for solar and wind at early project development stages; best practices for the mitigation of biodiversity risks and impacts of solar and wind power (terrestrial and off-shore); and recommendations for creating supportive regulatory and lending frameworks.
More specifically, the outcomes of this project include:
1. Biodiversity Risk Screening framework.
This framework will enable biodiversity risk screening at very early development stages (e.g. at the investment screening phase) of solar and wind projects.
2. Sectoral guidelines for the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy in the renewable energy sector with a focus on solar and wind projects.
The guidelines will provide recommendations on how to effectively manage impacts on biodiversity and associated ecosystem services through the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy in wind and solar power projects.
3. Regulatory and safeguard recommendations.
Recognizing the critical roles played by financial institutions and regulators, this includes recommendations for strengthening the integration in financial institutions’ safeguards and guidance specific for renewable technologies; and a selection of best approaches and tools to support enabling policy and regulatory frameworks.
Approach and process
To increase the potential for the guidelines to become the best practice standard at the sectoral level, IUCN is working with renewable energy companies with similar aspirations and facing similar challenges as well as conservation organisations with a track record in the field of biodiversity and renewable energy. This includes IUCN Members -- BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International, The Nature Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Society, and representatives of IUCN Commissions, mainly the Commission on Ecosystem Management and the World Commission on Protected Areas' Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group.
The Biodiversity Consultancy is responsible for compiling and synthesizing the information, and transforming it into the main outputs.
The key outputs will be presented at key events in 2020, including the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, in June, and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 in Kunming, China in October.