Infrastructure and energy

The IAU (Impacts Assessment Unit) at Oxford Brookes was established by John Glasson (now Emeritus Professor) in the late 1970s with an initial focus on the assessment of the socio-economic impacts of major projects, particularly in the UK energy sector. Over the last 40 years IAU’s remit has widened and it is now an internationally recognised centre for excellence for research, knowledge exchange and all aspects of environmental and social impact assessment.

Infrastructure and energy continue to be a key focus as they are the essential components of a rapidly urbanisation world. Assessing their environmental impact is vital to ensure a balance in the environmental, social and economic impacts of future urban environments to ensure there is equity and quality of life for all.

Recent projects

Assessing cumulative effects of offshore windfarms

The marine energy sector is an industry worth billions to the UK economy. This sector can also ensure the security of energy supplies, the reduction of the dependence on imported fossil fuels and protection of the environment by de-carbonizing the economy. Delays and/or rejections to renewable projects offshore or onshore could pose major challenges to the ability of the UK to meet its binding 2020 renewable energy targets.

The licensing procedures for marine development require the assessment of cumulative effects where the consequences of multiple projects or activities create an effect greater than, or different to, that of the individual project. The assessment of the cumulative effects of developments poses a major challenge for industry and regulators for a number of reasons:

  1. Lack of ‘certainty’ of an effective assessment process resulting from inconclusive guidance
  2. Inconsistent definition of the scope of assessment and the poorly defined concept of ‘reasonably foreseeable’ projects
  3. Uncertainty over project level effects (e.g. bird collision and cetacean displacement due to acoustic effect) which are compounded where a number of projects potentially contribute to the same effect
  4. Very few significance thresholds have been defined, under which the cumulative effects of projects can be managed

Bridget Durning and Martin Broderick undertook a short study funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) exploring current practice in cumulative effects assessment in offshore windfarms off the English, Welsh and Scottish coast. The outcome indentified that all stakeholders involved in the assessment process are aware of the need to address cumulative effects and that practice is improving but further progress is needed: lack of consistency in terminology and lack of transparency in the methodology used to assess the effects are key areas that need to improve.

The report, including case studies from practice, can be downloaded free from the Oxford Brookes repository or by following this link http://bit.ly/1XPGvHt.

Socio-economic impact assessment for UK new nuclear power station proposals

John Glasson and Andrew Chadwick (past members of IAU) have undertaken socio-economic assessment studies (2008-date), for EDF, of the potential impacts of constructing and operating Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C new build 1600 MW stations. This work builds on over 20 years of experience by the IAU team on power station impact assessment (nuclear, gas, coal, wind), including a major 7-year longtitudinal study of the actual construction of Sizewell B (1988 to 1995). This strand of research formed an Impact Case Study for School of the Built Environment in the 2014 national assessment of research excellence.

Review Panel for SEA/SA and EIA studies, for proposed UK deep mined nuclear waste repository

(For UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority [NDA])

Since 2010 John Glasson has been an expert EA adviser to the Sustainability Advisory Panel of the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the NDA. RWMD is developing procedures for future use in assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of developing the disposal facility in a volunteer location.

In similar vein, John Glasson was an international reviewer/adviser for the Woodside/Chevron Browse LNG project in NW Australia (2008-09). In 2010, he was appointed a Commissioner (p/t) for the UK IPC (now PINS, National Infrastructure Directorate) to examine proposed new UK major projects.