Sustainability assessment of future energy strategies for Milton Keynes

Titheridge, Helena (2005). Sustainability assessment of future energy strategies for Milton Keynes. PhD thesis The Open University.



Current patterns of energy use are unsustainable in the long-term. High dependence on the burning of fossil fuels cannot continue indefinitely. Sustainability Assessment is one way of including the wider environmental, social and economic impacts of energy use in policy-making. To date there is little experience of sustainability assessment being widely used to assess energy policies.

A sustainability assessment methodology was developed which combines an energy and emissions model (DREAM-city) with an impact database to appraise the impacts of a strategy, which are then presented in a matrix. The assessment methodology uses a process which follows similar steps to those typically used for environmental assessment and strategic environmental assessment (SEA), widely used by Local Authorities in other policy areas such as town-planning. A greater emphasis has been placed on the appraisal techniques and the presentation of the impacts than is usually the case with SEA techniques, where much of the literature to date has concentrated on the processes involved (Nilsson et al, 2004).

The assessment methodology was tested "in the laboratory" by comparing a series of different energy strategies that Milton Keynes could adopt. The methodology was then "field tested" by working closely with Milton Keynes Energy Agency to assess two different energy strategies.

The assessment methodology worked in the initial tests and was well received by Milton Keynes Energy Agency. The assessment is still open to some subjectivity due to necessity of summarising impacts tables to a level that is manageable. However, the process is more likely to capture all known impacts consistently than techniques that start at the summary level. The methodology has increased transparency over standard strategic assessment techniques, as assumptions have to be laid out in detail at the energy modelling stage, but this is at the cost of increased complexity.

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