Future-proofing the UK’s coastal energy supply from climate change

Researchers at the University of Liverpool are responding to the urgent need to predict the long-term impacts of climate change on Britain’s shores. Global warming will lead, not only to rising of sea levels, but increase in extreme weather and storms over the coming decades. A new modelling and decision support tool is of direct relevance to the nuclear energy sector, facilitating decision-making to enhance the resilience of power stations to extreme environmental changes. However, the benefits of the research extend beyond the energy sector to the better protection of shoreline communities.

The challenge

The UK’s coastline is one of the longest in the world compared to size of the country. Significantly, most of Britain’s energy infrastructure resides relatively close to the coast and is threatened by flooding and erosion. A clear understanding of predicted changes is needed to allow evidence-based policy and decision making, helping to secure effective energy distribution and the safety of coastal communities for the coming decades.

Research action

The ARCoES (Adaptation and Resilience of Coastal Energy Supply) project led by Professor Andy Plater at Liverpool’s Department of Geography and Planning looks to frame the challenges facing coastal energy production in the UK.

The ARCoES team have applied numerical models to better understand the complex coastal processes and predict the effect of a changing climate on shorelines for each decade in the 21st century. The models feed into a Decision Support Tool (DST) that visualises flooding vulnerability from sea level rise and storms, and erosion level projections.

The sophisticated model enables the best possible, economically viable management of particular energy assets, whether achieved by raising the height of critical power station equipment (such as switchgear), increasing the height of flood barriers, or utilising natural processes to increase coastal resilience.

Working in partnerships

The Liverpool-led ARCoES decision-support work is complemented by partners and stakeholders from academia, the energy and engineering sectors, planners and coastal managers, as well as local community networks and interest groups.

The main collaborators involve researchers from the University of Liverpool, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the universities of Exeter, Plymouth and Stirling. Industrial partners include EDF, National Grid and the National Nuclear Laboratory and Marlan Maritime Technologies (MTT). A Knowledge Transfer Partnership with MTT led to further development of an ERDF-funded novel technology for mapping coastal change.

The research is funded by the EPSRC IAA account through the ARCC programme, along with the European Regional Development Fund, delivered through the Liverpool Institute for Sustainable Coasts and Oceans (LISCO).

Outputs and outcomes

The developed decision-support system is Open Source so other stakeholders can use, share and modify it according to their needs. It also offers a ‘real-options’ valuation methodology, which helps identify critical times and high-risk locations in the energy sector where investment in buildings and increased resilience is most urgently required.

The tools and technology developed through ARCoES can be applied anywhere in the world to help shoreline communities and businesses prepare for extreme environmental changes. ARCoES methodology is being applied in the Caribbean to design coastal infrastructure that is resilient to hurricanes and sea level rise.

Expertise developed through the ARCoES project has led to Professor Plater contributing to Liverpool city region’s future energy strategy, focusing on the long-term design and development of renewable and climate-change resilient, multi-source energy supply. A continuation of ARCoES research is now being carried forward under the BLUEcoast project, a NERC-funded research consortium.

Predictive tools developed through ARCoES can be applied worldwide to help coastal energy infrastructure, businesses and communities prepare for the long-term impacts of climate change.

Professor Andy Plater

Back to: Department of Geography and Planning