Energy Sprawl Solutions

Alternative energy. Image from The Nature Conservancy.

Predictions show a 65% increase in energy demand by 2050. To ensure a path to a stable climate, the world must increase its renewable energy development dramatically. Professor Dave Naugle is co-author of the new book Energy Sprawl Solutions that provides a roadmap for smart energy development.

With smart large-scale planning along the way, we can ensure this development solves for the challenge of “energy sprawl” — the land and water area required for energy production. In doing so, we can reduce the land-use footprint of needed energy sources, safeguard ecosystem-services and biodiversity, and even potentially accelerate the transition to renewables. Explore our interactive tool to visualize trade-offs between CO2 emissions and land use based on the world’s projected energy demand. And take a look at a series of short case studies spotlighting actions countries are already taking to repower the planet in a sustainable way.Energy Sprawl Solutions

A growing energy footprint requires careful thought about our world’s energy mix, but even a renewable energy future is not necessarily a green one. While essential to combat climate change, the transition to renewable energy risks trading one crisis for another: climate change for energy sprawl — the amount of land needed to produce energy. Many renewable energy sources have a large footprint which can threaten biodiversity and conservation. With rising energy demands around the world expected to convert one-fifth of remaining natural lands, is it possible to balance energy development with biodiversity protection?  

Edited by scientists Joseph M. Kiesecker and David E. Naugle, Energy Sprawl Solutions: Balancing Global Development and Conservation 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.

Informed by experts in diverse fields such as conservation, ecology, ecosystem services, landscape planning, energy, economics, finance, and more, this contributed volume calls for a collaborative approach that engages industry, the environmental community, national governments, and international agencies. After laying out the challenges of balancing conservation with energy security, case studies show best practices for sustainable energy development. Highlighting different energy sectors and countries around the world, emerging models for comprehensive energy planning include:  

  • Identification of “solar energy zones” in the United States, which have encouraged cross-agency collaboration and reduced project permitting time by more than half;
  • The Reventazón hydropower project in Costa Rica, which compensates for project impacts on the Reventazón basin by applying offsets to rivers with similar natural characteristics;
  • National support of landscape-scale planning to guide coal, mineral, and oil and gas energy project siting in Mongolia, as well as the establishment of protected areas that support both nomadic livelihoods and wildlife.

Illustrated with maps, charts, and tables, Energy Sprawl Solutions is an indispensable guide for elected officials, industry representatives, natural resource managers, environmental groups, and more. We already have the tools necessary to forecast where and how energy development should take place to protect natural spaces. With this book, Kiesecker and Naugle show how.

Joseph M. Kiesecker is Lead Scientist for The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Lands Team, in Fort Collins, Colorado. David E. Naugle is Professor of Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Learn more about energy sprawl and tools and research from The Nature Conservancy on their Energy Sprawl Solutions web site.