Assessing the Impact of Renewable Energy on Regional Sustainability—A Comparative Study of Sogn og Fjordane (Norway) and Okinawa (Japan)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSchwanitz, V., Wierling, A., & Shah, P. (2017). Assessing the impact of renewable energy on regional sustainability—a comparative study of Sogn og Fjordane (Norway) and Okinawa (Japan). Sustainability, 9(11). 10.3390/su9111969
The drive to expand renewable energies is often in direct conflict with sustainable development goals. Thus, it is important that energy policies account for potential trade-offs. We assess the interlinkages between energy, food, water and land, for two case studies, Okinawa and Sogn og Fjordane. We apply a range of assessment methods and study their usefulness as tools to identify trade-offs and to compare the sustainability performance. We calculate cross-sectoral footprints, self-sufficiency ratios and perform a simplified Energy-Water-Food nexus analysis. We use the latter for assessing scenarios to increase energy and food self-sufficiency in Okinawa, while we use ecosystem service (ESS) accounting for Sogn og Fjordane. For Okinawa, we find that constraints on the energy, food and water sectors urgently call for integrated approaches to energy policy; for Sogn og Fjordane, the further expansion of renewables comes at the expense of cultural and supporting ESS, which could outweigh gains from increased energy exports. We recommend a general upgrade to indicators and visualization methods that look beyond averages and a fostering of infrastructure for data on sustainable development based on harmonized international protocols. We warn against rankings of countries or regions based on benchmarks that are neither theory-driven nor location-specific.
Copyright© 2017 by the authors
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