A framework for reviewing the trade-offs between, renewable energy, food, feed and wood production at a local level

Paul J. Burgess, Monica Rivas Casado, Jerry Gavu, Andrew Mead, Tim Cockerill, Richard Lord, Dan van der Horst, David C. Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


High fuel prices and concerns about energy security and anthropogenic climate change are encouraging a transition towards a low carbon economy. Although energy policy is typically set at a national level, tools are needed for people to engage with energy policy at regional and local levels, and to guide decisions regarding land use, distributed generation and energy supply and demand. The aim of this paper is to develop a per-capita approach to renewable energy demand and supply within a landscape and to illustrate the key trade-offs between renewable energy, food, (animal) feed and wood production. The chosen case study area (16,000 ha) of Marston Vale, England is anticipated to have a population density midway between that for England and the UK. The daily per capita demand for energy for heat (31 kWh), transport (34 kWh) and electricity (15 kWh) when combined (80 kWh) was seven-fold higher than the combined demand for food (2 kWh), animal feed (6 kWh), and wood (4 kWh). Using described algorithms, the combined potential energy supply from domestic wind and photovoltaic panels, solar heating, ground-source heat, and municipal waste was limited (< 10 kWh p(-1) d(-1)). Additional electricity could be generated from landfill gas and commercial wind turbines, but these have temporal implications. Using a geographical information system and the Yield-SAFE tree and crop yield model, the capacity to supply bioethanol, biodiesel, and biomass, food, feed and wood was calculated and illustrated for three land-use scenarios. These scenarios highlight the limits on meeting energy demands for transport (33%) and heat (53%), even if all of the arable and grassland area was planted to a high yielding crop like wheat. The described framework therefore highlights the major constraints faced in meeting current UK energy demands from land-based renewable energy and the stark choices faced by decision makers. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • renewable energy
  • wood production
  • feed
  • low carbon economy


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