1. Recommendations and policy options

Electrifying the economy and investing in renewable power are essential to decarbonising energy and achieving key global goals, including the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement and various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being and SDG 7: Universal Access to Affordable and Clean Energy. As climate change significantly contributes to nature’s decline, expanding renewable power could also contribute to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework's mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Exceeding a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could substantially worsen biodiversity loss.

Though renewable power expansion reduces climate-related pressures on biodiversity, it brings its own risks. Renewable power projects can lead to direct species mortality (e.g., from avian or bat collision with infrastructure); habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; changes to ecosystem services; and other impacts. These impacts can accumulate across multiple projects. Without careful management, renewable power developments could drive significant population declines for sensitive species and disrupt ecosystem function. Furthermore, by degrading intact ecosystems, poorly planned renewable projects could inadvertently lead to avoidable greenhouse gas emissions and undermine ecosystems’ capacities to support societal resilience.

Various solutions exist for mitigating the adverse impacts of renewable power. Examples include careful siting (and micro-siting) of infrastructure away from ecologically sensitive areas, designing power lines to minimise electrocution risk and increasing the cut-in speed of wind turbines to reduce the risk of bat collisions. Such solutions are being tested and refined, as experience and evidence increase. Digital technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are providing new opportunities for the industry to monitor and cost-effectively mitigate impacts on biodiversity (e.g., wind turbine shutdown-on-demand mechanisms based on automated monitoring of collision-sensitive species). Through strategic planning and targeted policies, governments can help scale up such solutions to ensure that renewable power expansion does not compromise biodiversity goals.

This report aims to help governments achieve their biodiversity objectives, while swiftly transitioning to low-emissions electricity systems. It explores opportunities for harnessing synergies between renewable power expansion and biodiversity objectives, managing trade-offs and avoiding unintended consequences. The report’s objectives are: 1) to synthesise evidence on the biodiversity impacts from infrastructure for renewably sourced electricity generation and from power distribution and transmission infrastructure; and 2) to share insights and good practices for integrating biodiversity considerations into electricity sector planning and the policies governing the development of renewable power infrastructure and power lines. The analysis focuses on infrastructure for solar power, wind power and electricity transmission and distribution. Wind and solar power are the focus because they are expanding faster than other technologies and have greater potential to be scaled up globally than other sources of low-emissions electricity.

This chapter summarises the key recommendations and policy options of the report. It intends to guide planners, regulators and environmental policy makers as they pursue a biodiversity-aligned transition to low-emissions electricity systems. The recommendations focus on mainstreaming biodiversity into planning and policy. While mainstreaming biodiversity into renewable energy financing (e.g., through sustainable finance taxonomies, biodiversity safeguards and nature-related disclosure) is also important, it is outside the report’s scope and therefore not addressed in the recommendations.

While the report is based primarily on an analysis of wind energy, solar energy and power lines, many of the recommendations hold for other renewable and non-renewable power projects. It should be stressed that regulations for fossil fuel energy projects – and enforcement of these regulations – must be at least as stringent given the significant threat fossil fuels pose to biodiversity as well as human health and well-being. The key recommendations and policy options are provided below.

  • Scale up efforts to hold global average temperature increase to 1.5oC, pursuing low-energy demand pathways that deliver benefits for climate, biodiversity and other well-being objectives.

    • Adopt ambitious low-emissions development strategies and policies that integrate climate, biodiversity, energy and broader well-being objectives.

    • Leverage the full range of demand-side mitigation measures, including technological and social innovations, to reduce energy demand by improving energy efficiency and changing consumer behaviour.

    • Apply a systems approach to the design (re-design) of energy end-use systems (e.g., transport, food) so that they require less energy and materials.

  • Consider biodiversity impacts when selecting among power sector technologies and capacity expansion options.

    • Integrate spatially explicit biodiversity data into power system modelling to identify capacity expansion options that are relatively low cost, low emissions and low risk for biodiversity.

    • Evaluate the cumulative biodiversity impacts of capacity expansion options through appropriate environmental assessments.

    • Integrate ecosystem service values and biodiversity-related measures into cost-benefit analysis or multi-criteria decision analysis tools used to appraise technology choices and capacity expansion options.

  • Prioritise renewable power deployment in areas of low ecological sensitivity and avoid the most ecologically sensitive areas.

    • Develop biodiversity-explicit spatial plans for renewable power infrastructure, stipulating no go areas and areas of low ecological risk where renewable power projects should be prioritised.

    • Ensure that siting decisions account for potential cumulative impacts.

    • Accelerate solar rooftop deployment as a low-risk option e.g., by subsidising installation of solar panels on existing roofs and mandating solar panels for public buildings and new builds.

    • Promote research and development of technologies and approaches for co-locating renewable power infrastructure with other infrastructure (e.g., integrated solar-wind power facilities; solar PV in motorway sound barriers) and activities (e.g., food production; ecosystem restoration).

    • Adapt land and sea-use regulations to facilitate co-location and the siting of renewable power in areas of low ecological risk (e.g. brownfield sites; abandoned agricultural land), while managing potential indirect impacts from activities displaced by renewable energy facilities.

  • Develop policies and guidance to ensure that power generation, transmission and distribution projects effectively mitigate adverse impacts on biodiversity.

    • Review requirements, processes and guidance for environmental impact assessment and permitting, to promote efficiency and ensure risks to biodiversity are effectively addressed.

    • Ensure renewable power companies and utilities strictly adhere to the Mitigation Hierarchy (avoid, minimise, restore onsite and where appropriate offset) to address adverse impacts.

    • Establish “no net loss” (or “net biodiversity gain”) requirements for new infrastructure projects, including power sector infrastructure, with robust metrics and methods for verification.

    • Adopt standards to promote infrastructure designs and operational practices with lower-risk to biodiversity (e.g., bird-safe power-line design; minimum cut-in-speed for wind turbines).

    • Encourage or require renewable power companies and their investors to conduct due diligence in line with the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

    • Require post-construction monitoring and reporting by projects to ensure that recommendations generated through environmental assessments and permitting requirements are respected and to inform adaptive management.

  • Encourage positive biodiversity outcomes from power generation, transmission and distribution projects.

    • Integrate biodiversity criteria into tenders for renewable power projects to incentivise companies to go beyond regulatory requirements.

    • Establish or endorse certification schemes with science-based criteria to encourage power sector projects to seek positive biodiversity outcomes (e.g., pollinator-friendly solar).

    • Encourage power companies to adopt ambitious biodiversity targets (e.g., net positive by 2030), a plan to achieve the targets and a methodology for assessing progress. Collaborate with power companies on proactive actions to conserve and restore nature.

  • Strengthen the quality and transparency of data on biodiversity and renewable power interactions.

    • Support development and application of environmental sensitivity mapping tools to inform project siting decisions.

    • Develop protocols and guidelines for monitoring biodiversity impacts from renewable power. Encourage coordination across projects to evaluate and address their cumulative impacts.

    • Require sharing of data from SEA, EIA, other pre-construction surveys and post-construction monitoring. Develop open access data platforms to facilitate data sharing.

    • Support targeted research to address knowledge gaps on the impacts of renewable power on biodiversity (e.g., understudied species, ecosystems, renewable power technologies and geographies – particularly developing countries) and the effectiveness of mitigation measures.

  • Promote cross-border collaboration to mitigate the adverse biodiversity impacts of transitioning to low-emissions electricity systems.

    • Promote collective ambition to protect biodiversity in renewable power developments across sub-national and national governments to ensure species and ecosystems are protected across their entire range and lifecycle.

    • Promote cross-border spatial planning and impact assessments, share data and information on biodiversity affected by renewable power and co-ordinate policy to better understand and address cumulative impacts on transboundary ecosystems and migratory or mobile species.

    • Harness opportunities presented by cross-border electricity trade for siting renewable power infrastructure in areas of low ecological risk, while assessing and managing adverse biodiversity impacts from transmission infrastructure.

    • Leverage official development assistance to develop partner country capacity to integrate biodiversity into energy planning and policy, support biodiversity-explicit spatial planning processes, and establish monitoring and data management systems.

  • Address upstream biodiversity (and other) adverse impacts from the sourcing and processing of minerals and the manufacturing of parts for renewable power infrastructure.

    • Prioritise mining in areas of relatively low ecological risk and avoid sites that have particularly high biodiversity values that may be compromised by mining.

    • Promote international good practice principles in mining, ensuring full application of the Mitigation Hierarchy by companies extracting or refining minerals.

    • Promote supply chain transparency and apply due diligence guidelines to promote sustainable extraction and trade of the minerals required for the low-emissions transition.

    • Pursue greater resource efficiency and material circularity for renewable power infrastructure through extended producer responsibility and other policies that promote resource productivity, material recovery, sustainable materials management and the 3Rs (i.e., reduce, reuse, recycle).

Legal and rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2024

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.