Besides climate change, the loss of biodiversity is seen as a major environmental challenge. Our most significant land use relates to electric transmission corridors, power plants – especially hydro power plants – and lignite mining in Germany.
Biodiversity and the energy sector
Besides climate change, the loss of biodiversity is seen as a major environmental challenge. The impact drivers for biodiversity loss related to the energy industry are rather complex, including both direct drivers such as site specific impacts from changed land use and construcion activities, fuel sorucing activities, alterations of natural water regimes, and indirect drivers caused by emissions from power plants.
In a longer perspective also climate change is expected to be an important driver for biodiversity loss. Seen in a European perspectie habitat change and habitat loss caused by changes in land use is one of the most important drivers for biodiversity loss.
Protection and management of biodiversity
Before starting a new construction or major rebuilding work, we always conduct an environmental impact assessment. Our most significant land use relates to electric transmission corridors, power plants – especially hydro power plants – and lignite mining in Germany. We are committed to protecting flora and fauna in the surrounding area during construction and after commissioning. We strive to harmonise operational facilities with the landscape and the environment.
This type of commitment and planning are often requirements in the permits granted by the regulatory authorities to operate power plants. In several areas, our commitment goes beyond what is required by law.
Our most significant impact on biodiversity concerns the large reservoirs for river regulation in Sweden, involving both natural lakes and swamped land. The reservoirs hold approximately 9,500 million m3 of water during an average year, and cover an area of approximately 640 km2.
A biodiversity programme was launched in 2012, focusing on restoration of migration barriers for fish in side streams that feed rivers with large-scale hydro power generation. For small-scale hydro power, the focus is on stations lacking fish ways and with dry water channels.Every year, Vattenfall plants about two million fishes in rivers and streams.
Addressing the impact on biodiversity is also part of the certified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Within this scope Vattenfall has developed the Biotope Method to quantify the impacts on biodiversity.
- The Biotope Method shows the size of different habitats used and changed by our operations. The affected area is also related to the benefit that is created by the activity, such as amount of generated electricity.
Impact assessments of Vattenfall's Nordic generation are described in the Environmental Product Declarations.
Creating new habitats
While our operations impact and change habitats we also create new habitats that create new habitats that can develop over a long time and grow new natural values.
We have the opportunity to create new habitats in connection to certain operations to benefit and protect biodiversity, and we do so. Examples of this include:
- In Sweden, studies show that many rare species have found refuge around overhead distribution grid lines thanks to the regularly recurring right-of-way clearance. Sections of Vattenfall's Swedish power line corridors have been declared "Natura 2000" areas, harbouring rare and red-listed species. These areas represent valuable natural habitats to be preserved with the help and support of the EU.
- Lignite mining is conducted in open-cast mines which consume land areas. Lignite mining impacts the surrounding land when the cast is open, but mining and the re-cultivation of mined land are two phases of the same operation. Post-mining, our objective is to restore the land with sustainable agriculture, forestry and water management, in combination with good biodiversity.
- In connection with onshore wind farms, small culturing refuges can occur. The wind farms can become a haven for plant and animal species in agricultural landscapes. Offshore wind farms that are managed properly can also benefit the marine biodiversity by offering protection for various species as fishing is normally prohibited in the area of the wind farm.