Land Use Planning for Low Carbon Energies

GLF 2017 Blog Competition
Mona Poorzady

Land use planning is a key component for each society to reach sustainability goals. Despite this, many developing countries don’t care about the capacity of land for appropriate land usages. In this context there is also a big knowledge gap surrounding land capacity for the development of low carbon energies. Except for bioenergy, other kinds of renewable energies are not considered in land use planning process. Degraded/marginal lands with low capacity for agriculture are suitable for development of renewable energies (RE) which needs consideration in land use planning process. Increasing RE deployment also creates conflict over the use of land for energy production.

Recent analyses indicate that bioenergy production may severely harm biodiversity, as half of its global potential is concentrated within the top biodiversity areas. The potential biodiversity impacts from wind and solar are generally less than those from bioenergy in that two-thirds of the energy generation potential from solar and wind falls outside of the top biodiversity areas. Land use planning encourages the assessment of current and potential land uses in a territory and the adoption of those that best meet people’s needs, while safeguarding valuable resources for future generations. Soil quality data provide useful information for governments, farmers and other stakeholders to monitor the impact of agricultural activities and inform land management decision-making and farming practices.

While land use planning is mandated in all high-income member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as in East Asian and Pacific countries, it is less common in other regions such as Africa and South Asia, except Nepal and India. Expanding access to clean energy in low-income countries is a key component of global development efforts to address energy poverty and food insecurity, and it contributes to achieving several of the SDGs. Nevertheless, there are significant barriers that hinder the integration of clean energy technology in agriculture development.

Powering Agriculture is a joint initiative of donors and private enterprises that utilizes a cross-sectoral nexus approach to concurrently focus on the energy and agriculture sectors while providing technical, business acceleration, financing and policy support to its innovators and other stakeholders. There are many strategies to avoid or mitigate potential conflict over solar deployment and lands productively used for other purposes, especially co-locating renewable energy systems with food production (e.g., agroforestry, intercropping, among others ). There is also a large stock of contaminated land unsuitable for agriculture, allowing the application of solar and wind without negative land use effects.

For biodiversity-compatible solar development, California implemented its Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which is under way for large-scale CSP plants in Kenya. On a broader scale, RE systems are proposed for deserts in the energy landscape, combining wind and solar electricity to serve national and international demands. As these proposals face challenges in terms of infrastructure cost and transboundary cooperation, their near-term implementation appears unrealistic, although the deployment of large-scale CSP plants, for instance in Morocco, is well under way. This dynamic, together with the grand scale of the renewable resources in African and Asian deserts indicates that RE systems will play a massive role in decarbonizing the global energy system while using un-productive land.

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