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Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51

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Ecosystem services and renewable power generation: A preliminary

literature review
Mariana de Assis Espe cie, Pedro Nino^ de Carvalho, Maria Fernanda Bacile Pinheiro,
Vinicius Mesquita Rosenthal, Leyla A. Ferreira da Silva,
Mariana Rodrigues de Carvalhaes Pinheiro, Silvana Andreoli Espig,
^ngela Medeiros de Almeida,
Carolina Fiorillo Mariani, Elisa
Federica Natasha Ganança Abreu dos Santos Sodre *
Department of Environment Studies, Division of Energy Economics and Environmental Studies, Energy Research Office (EPE), Avenida Rio Branco, 1, 10
Andar, 20090-003, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The term ecosystem services describes a relatively novel approach that directly associates the environ-
Received 28 November 2018 ment to the provision of human well-being, a concept to which renewable power generation is intrin-
Received in revised form sically connected. In light of this, the present work characterizes the evolution of the ecosystem services
2 March 2019
approach as it relates to power generation from renewable sources and identifies trends that have being
Accepted 13 March 2019
applied in the field worldwide. The baseline data for the analyses were retrieved from queries of an
Available online 16 March 2019
online scientific database, from which articles that contained the term “ecosystem services” and terms
related to renewable energy sources were selected. Chiefly influenced by the publication of reference
Ecosystem services
documents on this issue, the literature review that supported this study demonstrates some trends
Renewable energy regarding the ecosystem services approach to renewables, most of which are related to hydropower,
Scientometric analysis including the following: (i) concerns about the degree of dependence that hydropower facilities have on
Hydropower forest conservation; (ii) the relevance of watershed land management for reducing soil erosion to
enhance energy generation by hydropower plants; (iii) the emergence of environmentally friendly
operational schemes to preserve and/or alleviate the impacts of hydropower plants on river ecosystem
services; (iv) the adoption of payment for ecosystem services as an instrument to foment land use
strategies that benefit hydropower generation by the engagement of different stakeholders; and (v) the
use of economic valuation methods as means to address trade-off scenarios between energy generation
and the maintenance of certain ecosystem services. In this process, universities, governments, com-
panies, nongovernmental organizations and even the United Nations have been engaged in different
manners of discussions as a reflection of the different positions they have assumed on the subject. The
results gathered indicate that there are still opportunities to improve the ecosystem services approach by
extending its use to the early stages of renewable energy facilities planning, such as the environmental
impact assessments of these projects.
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

The original idea of ecosystem services (ES) and products was

presented in the 1950s by Odum [1], who discussed the uses of
* Corresponding author.
natural resources (agriculture, hunting, fisheries) and the dynamics
E-mail addresses: (M.A. Espe cie), pedro.carvalho@ (P.N. de Carvalho), (M.F.B. Pinheiro), of the human population as being part of ecosystems [2]. Academia (V.M. Rosenthal), (L.A.F. da has discussed the services provided by nature as a theme [3] since
Silva), (M.R.C. Pinheiro), at least the 1970s. The concept of ES was introduced in the 1980s; it
(S.A. Espig), (C.F. Mariani), elisangela.almeida@epe. then went on to inspire a rapidly growing body of peer-reviewed
). (E.M. de Almeida), (F.N.G.A.S. Sodre
0960-1481/© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
40 M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51

literature [4]. However, it was only after the Rio Earth Summit in presents an overview of 15 years of scientific production related to
1992 that ES were institutionalized as a concept. The theme quickly the subject. By means of a scientometric analysis, the present
disseminated afterwards throughout scientific, expert and public research sought to identify the trends in the use of the ES approach.
debate efforts aimed at promoting biodiversity preservation and Moreover, the analysis explored where studies have been carried
the protection of the environment [5]. out, which ES categories were most frequent, the institutions
Go mez-Baggethun et al. [6] highlighted the first conceptuali- involved in the dissemination of this concept, as well as the
zations of ES-connected environmental impacts and the conse- different sorts of valuation methods and tools used to capture the
quent loss of species to the balance of the ecosystems' long-term value of the ES.
carrying capacity. Daily et al. [7] eventually coined a very popular
definition for the term, which has been well accepted and ratified 2. Material and methods
by other authors, which is as follows: “Ecosystem services are the
conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems, and The scientometric approach aims at the advancement of the
the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life. They development of science in relation to social and to policy questions
maintain biodiversity and the production of ecosystem goods, such [21]. It relies chiefly on the quantitative analysis of scientific pub-
as seafood, forage, timber, biomass fuels, natural fiber and many lications to understand how a certain knowledge or scientific field
pharmaceuticals, industrial products, and their precursors”. Cos- is structured and organized [22]. The main advantage of adopting
tanza et al. [8] helped highlight the role of ecosystems in sustaining scientometric analysis is the possibility of mapping the relationship
well-being by estimating the economic value of the world's ES and between concepts, ideas and problems in science [23], allowing
natural capital. Gradually, then, the concept of ES was reframed by researchers, policymakers and managers to identify trends on
academia, transitioning from a heuristic model into an explicit knowledge production in different areas (e.g., Refs. [24e26]).
decision-making and policymaking tool [9e11]. The scientometric analysis adopted in the present study fol-
However, it was only in 2004 that the ES approach emerged in lowed the framework described by Tancoigne et al. [5]. Online
the context of a UN program led by a panel of international scien- database searches of the peer-reviewed literature allowed the
tific experts. The idea was to better understand and assess the creation of a corpus dataset composed of scientific article refer-
connections between ecosystems and human well-being [5]. The ences related to the ES approach and renewable energy. Then, the
result of these efforts was the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment created corpus dataset was subjected to Cortext Manager (http://
(MA) [12], published in 2005. The publication is still a reference, a free online platform that provides
work on ES approaches and has since influenced other scientific modeling and exploratory tools for analyzing any text corpora. In
research and helped significantly increase the number of publica- this platform, text processing was used to identify the most
tions focused on the theme [13]. In this sense, The Economy of frequent terms and, thus, the emergence or disappearance of
Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project [14], along with the research topics and concepts across the years. Finally, network
subsequent additions to the work of the MA [12], have helped bring analysis was applied to characterize the thematic groups and range
ecosystem services to the toolsets of decision-makers with an of the ES studied. A methodology flowchart is presented in Fig. 1,
economic overtone, assisting in the development of models and and a detailed description of each step adopted by this study is
tools for biodiversity economics [15]. provided in subsequent sections.
The exact time at which the ecosystem services approach was
first applied to renewable energy as a subject of academic literature 2.1. Composition and structure of the text corpus
is not known with certainty. The first study to make a connection
between renewable energy and ES discussed the negative exter- The first stage consisted of narrowing down a text corpus from
nalities involved in hydropower projects, such as the decreasing the references available in the Scopus database. Indexed scientific
groundwater levels and riverhead throughput (and, consequently, articles that contained the expression ecosystem services were
reducing the river flow, thus adversely impacting recreational and selected; then our search was further drilled down by seeking
fishing activities) [16]. mentions of multiple terms related to electricity from renewable
Understanding the connections between renewable energy and sources in the title, abstract and keyword sections of the articles in
ES has grown in relevance since renewable sources provided the search results. For example, when searching for ecosystem ser-
approximately 25% of all electricity generated in the world in 2016 vices electric power hydropower, Scopus retrieved a dataset corpus
[17], playing an important role in mitigating the effects of climate containing references with the terms ecosystem AND services AND
change and global warming resulting from fossil fuel generation electric AND power AND hydropower. The complete list of searched
and consumption. The potential of renewable energy sources to terms are presented in Appendix A. The queries conducted against
meet the world's energy demand is enormous, and it is becoming the Scopus database returned a total of 196 scientific articles.
clear that it will be a future growth area of the energy sector [18]. By Since each record was examined to verify their relationship with
2050, the gross power generation should almost double, with the focus of this research, 45 unrelated entries were manually
renewable energy providing 85% of the electricity [19]. excluded from the corpus dataset. Therefore, all subsequent ana-
However, the impacts of this dramatic expansion of renewable lyses presented in this study were carried out considering a total of
energy in recent years, both in terms of installed capacity and 151 scientific articles. To explore how the concept of ES was actually
output, still has not been well assessed. Hastik et al. [20], for applied, a series of variables were manually assigned to the dataset
example, highlighted that land use competition, social acceptance created. Information available in the title, author affiliation, author
and trade-offs with biodiversity conservation are controversial is- keywords and abstract fields supported the classification. Table 1
sues regarding renewable energy expansion. In that sense, linking summarizes the description and classes considered in the analysis
renewable energy and ES provides several benefits, such as inter to all variables included in the dataset. In addition, brief appoint-
and transdisciplinary approaches, and comparisons of renewable ments for some variables are provided below.
energy alternatives and their impacts on different ES [20]. At the institutional level, aiming at discovering insights on use
Aiming to understand how the development of the ES concept intensity by different classes of institutions and the level of artic-
has been handled in the context of renewable energy, this study ulation among them, articles were assigned to one of the following
classes, according to the field “author affiliation”: “university”,
M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51 41

“government”, non-Governmental Organization (“NGO”), “com-

panies” and United Nations (“UN”).
Additionally, all articles were subjected to a classification into ES
categories. Although different categorization schemes are available
in the literature, the present work followed the ES categories pre-
sented at the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) [12] and The
Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) [14] since both
documents have pioneered the ES approach worldwide. On the
other hand, the authors did not necessarily adopt the MA and TEEB
category scheme. In these cases, the closest MA-based category of
ES was assigned. For example, mentions of fishery and agricultural
production ES were classified as “food provision”.
In light of the aforementioned classification, two different
groups of articles were formed: a “generic” group, consisting of
articles in which the ES concept, although cited, was a minor focus
of the publication since they did not mention any ES category or
typology (n ¼ 102); and a “specific” group, regarding references in
which the ES in question were described per the categories or ty-
pologies proposed by the MA or TEEB (n ¼ 49).
Finally, some variables were established in alignment with
recently published market-oriented guidelines (e.g., IFC Perfor-
mance Standards [27] and Natural Capital Protocol [28]). In that
sense, the relation between the renewable energy source and ES in
terms of dependence (if energy generation was supported by a
certain ES) or impact (if energy generation has caused impacts or
externalities on certain ES) was taken into consideration. The
development stage, either planning (including the environmental
impact assessment) or operation, was also tracked down specif-
ically for hydropower projects since this renewable source of power
generation relies on longer stages before their effective construc-
tion and operation when compared to the other renewable energy
sources. Mentions of the valuation methods applied to evaluate ES
and of any decision-support tools with this purpose (cf. Ref. [29])
adopted by studies were also sought.

2.2. Text processing and multiterms extraction

This step attempted to extract the most frequent noun phrases

and terms from the group of 49-“specific” articles available in the
corpus dataset. As some scientific journals do not have the author
Fig. 1. Methodology flowchart representing the steps toward a scientometric analysis
keywords field, this step focused only at title and abstract fields
of ecosystem services and renewable energy. ES ¼ Ecosystem Services; TEEB ¼ The
Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity; MA ¼ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. available in the text corpus. The natural language processing (NLP)
methods provided in Cortext Manager comprise different stages
(for further details, see Ref. [30]), allowing the lexical extraction
from the text corpus by retrieving a list of terms corresponding to
the subjects studied. Plural and singular forms of an expression

Table 1
Summary of variables, with their respective descriptions and classes, inserted to corpus dataset.

Variable Description Classes

Renewable source Type of renewable power generation source considered in the article Biomass; Hydropower; Photovoltaic; Wind power
Year Year in which the article was published As many as those described by articles
Country of author's Country of author's institution as presented in the article As many as those described by articles
Country of research Country where the research was carried out As many as those described by articles
Institution Type of institution from which the article's authors were affiliated Company; Government; NGO; UN; University; Combination
of such classes
ES category ES categories (according to MA and TEEB) mentioned in the article title, keywords Provisioning; Regulating; Habitat/Supporting; Cultural
or abstract
ES typology Typology of the ES (according to MA and TEEB) cited in the article title, keywords As many as those described by articles
or abstract
Relation to ES Nature of the relationship between the renewable energy source and ES, as Dependence; Impact
described by the article
Development stage Development stage of the hydropower enterprise described in the article Planning; Operation; Combination of such classes
Valuation method Name of the valuation method used in the study As many as those described by articles
Valuation tool Name of the valuation tool used to estimate the quantitative value of ES As many as those described by articles
42 M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51

were assigned as identical, since Cortext Manager groups multi- the years. Then, the 49-articles corpus dataset was broken down
terms as a function of their stem form [5]. In this study, the analyses into two distinct periods (2003e2009 and 2010 to 2017), making it
considered the most cited multiterms with a minimum frequency possible to build two homogeneous networks by considering solely
of three, that is, comprising at least to 6% of the corpus. the “Extracted terms” field of the corpus. The proximity measure
Then, the terms obtained went through a thorough sorting considered in this case was the distributional measure, which can
process to exclude from the list the words and/or expressions be considered an indirect or global metric to define the similarity
whose meaning was not relevant to the focus of this research. between two nodes since it is based on comparing their entire
Subsequently, the list containing the sorted terms was indexed to cooccurrence profile with the other terms [5].
the corpus dataset in a new field named “Extracted terms”, which Additionally, to understand how each institution type has been
has enabled the detection of articles containing the retained terms. developing the ES knowledge on renewable energy, a heteroge-
neous network was also mapped by associating two corpus fields
(“Extracted terms” and “Institution type”). In this case, the chi-
2.3. Characterization of thematic clusters
squared test was defined as a measure of similarity between
nodes because it is regarded as a direct or local metric, as it takes
This step consisted of applying network analysis to cluster the
into account the number of co-occurrences of each pair considered
sorted terms for identifying the structure and the relationship be-
tween the topics addressed in the group of 49-“specific” articles.
Clustering methods set objects into groups as a measure of their
similarity or dissimilarity, grouping terms with high correlations 3. Results and discussion
with each other into the same cluster [31]. In a network map, the
node size shows the occurrence frequency of a term; the smaller its From all 151 scientific articles, 90% were about hydropower and
size, the lower the occurrence frequency [25]. On the other hand, 7% were about wind power. Other renewable sources, such as
the line depicts the relationship between two or more words, while biomass, biogas, solar and geothermal, were featured only occa-
their thickness draws the correlation between them proportionally, sionally. The studies were carried out in 38 countries (Fig. 2). China,
i.e., the thicker the line between two terms, the stronger the the US and Brazil accounted for the majority of articles discussing
connection [25]. In this study, Cortext Manager was used to the relationship between ES and renewable energy. Specifically, for
calculate raw data and cooccurrence network maps of the extracted China, more than half of the articles specify which category of ES is
terms. Homogeneous and heterogeneous network analyses were being addressed. In the US and Brazil, most articles dealt with ES
conducted, as described next. However, for both cases, the identi- more generally.
fication of cohesive clusters in both networks was made possible by Since 2002, when the first publication on ES was launched, the
applying Louvain's algorithm. Additionally, to provide a better number of scientific articles concerning the ES approach with
visualization of the network maps, links with intensities higher renewable energy sources has been increasing, a trend that be-
than 0.3 combined with the top five neighbors of each node were comes more evident from 2010 onwards for both “generic” and
retained. All network graphs were drawn in Gephi 0.9.2 software. “specific” article groups. In line with the pattern described, in
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity - TEEB publica- previous studies of other areas of knowledge (e.g., Refs. [2,13]), an
tion in 2010 [14] was defined as the criterion to identify possible association between the accumulation of scientific articles and the
trends in the ES approach for renewable energy sources throughout release of technical reports and/or the holding of international

Fig. 2. Scientific production on the ES approach by country. Pie charts refer to the ratio of the “generic” and “specific” articles per country (ranging from 1 to 32).
M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51 43

Fig. 3. Distribution of the scientific production regarding an ES approach and renewable power generation from 2002 to 2017. CICES ¼ Common International Classification of
Ecosystem Services; COP ¼ Conference of the Parts; MA ¼ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; MDG ¼ Millennium Development Goals; SDGs ¼ Sustainable Development Goals;
TEEB ¼ The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity; UNCSD ¼ United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

conferences on environmental issues was also identified. In that (Fig. 4).

sense, the publication of the MA and TEEB, the launch of the The findings about the nature of the relationship between the
Ecosystem Services Journal, and the holding of the Rio þ20 UNCSD renewable energy source and ES revealed that 19 articles described
and COP 21 (Paris) seemed to be the most important milestones the externalities or impacts of energy generation on certain ES,
that caused the increase in the number of articles published on the while 12 articles addressed the dependence, describing ES that
theme (Fig. 3). support energy generation. While some studies focus on the chal-
It is important to highlight that of the 151 scientific articles lenges to incorporate the ES concept into well-known assessment
analyzed, five studies have already treated “hydropower produc- practices, others attempt to track the dependence of energy gen-
tion” as a provisioning ES [32e36], two of which achieved results eration projects on ES, in which hydropower projects play an
by using tools available for ES accounting (InVEST) [32,34]. Despite important role in cases of valuating the ES dependence [39] and
that, they were not included in the subsequent analysis, as the MA Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) [40,41]. Other authors
and TEEB classification schemes were used as the reference in the considered the externalities or impacts of using hydropower on the
present study. river ecosystem services [16,42,43].
Different ES classification schemes have been proposed since Analyzing the number of articles related to ES impacted by
MA publication, and the Common International Classification of renewable energy sources, “food provisioning” was the most-cited
Ecosystem Services (CICES) has been developed to provide a hier- ES and was particularly linked to the negative impacts on fishery
archically consistent and science-based classification to be used for and aquaculture caused by hydropower plants. Regarding the de-
natural capital accounting purposes [37]. To consider the end-use of pendency of energy generation on ES, “freshwater provision” was
ES, the more recent version of CICES has incorporated energy the main target, as studies discussed how hydropower generation
sources, such as hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and mineral is strongly dependent on the water supply. “Erosion regulation”
substances as provisioning ES [38]. In that sense, “surface water was also featured frequently and was related to both natures of the
used for nutrition, materials or energy” has become an ES group of relationship, i.e., as an ES affected by hydropower projects in the
the “Provisioning (Abiotic)” section of the “Water” division [38]. sense that such plants cause erosion downstream and as a de-
With this new approach, it is possible that future studies will adopt pendency since hydropower projects rely on the ability of such
such a classification system that emphasizes renewable energy as services to regulate sedimentation in the reservoir. Moreover, it is
provisioning ES as well. important to note that most articles (n ¼ 25) were related to the
In the sections below, the results and discussion about the group operation stage of hydropower plants, a trend also seen in previous
of 49 -“specific” articles will be presented. The analyses were car- studies (e.g., Refs. [44,45]).
ried out from 2003 to 2017, considering that the first specific article
was launched in 2003.
3.2. Trends of the ecosystem services approach from 2003 to 2017

3.1. Ecosystem services approach on renewable energy The results of the terms extraction and network analysis con-
ducted under this study have highlighted structural shifts in the ES
Regarding the “specific” group, it is noteworthy that the vast topics covered throughout the years. The publication of the report
majority of publications was related to hydropower (n ¼ 46), fol- on TEEB in 2010 represented a milestone e with major impacts on
lowed by wind power (n ¼ 2) and biomass (n ¼ 1). The most-often the articles published afterwards e by bringing an economic
cited ES category was provisioning services, followed by cultural, connotation to the ES approach [9]. In that sense, the analyses were
regulating, habitat and supporting services. Erosion regulation, divided in two periods. The first period considered articles
followed by freshwater provision and food provision, all topics launched from 2003 to 2009 and the second period considered
related chiefly to hydropower plants, were the most-discussed ES articles from 2010 to 2017 (Fig. 5).
44 M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51

Fig. 4. Number of articles per category and individual ecosystem services following the MA [12] and TEEB [14] classifications.

Fig. 5. Cooccurrence network maps of the terms extracted from the “specific” group (n ¼ 49) during the first (2003e2009; left) and second (2010e2017; right) periods.

During the first period, studies were carried out in only five different decision-making scenarios. The network analysis for this
countries, all of which directly related to hydropower generation. In period retrieved two isolated groups. The first cluster (A1; Fig. 5)
a general sense, publications from the first period have depicted the was more focused on issues associated with river ES. Those studies
main insights from MA, given that those studies increased aware- attempted to assess the importance of the ES approach on inte-
ness on how dependent hydropower generation is on ES and also grated watershed management [46] and on preserving river ES
highlighted the use of ES valuation as a promising way to influence functions when deciding whether or not to build dams, including
M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51 45

those for hydropower generation [47,48]. The second cluster (A2; watershed scale will maintain and enhance the soil regulation
Fig. 5) was related to the conceptual framework of ES, denoting service, thus reducing soil erosion and contributing to the life span
both hydropower facilities as beneficiaries of the ES provided by of hydropower facilities.
protected areas (e.g., Ref. [39]) and how such enterprises can pro- Encouraging cooperation between hydropower beneficiaries
vide biodiversity conservation and, consequently, enhance the and local communities and farmers is reported as the key to
provision of other ES (e.g., Ref. [49]). maintaining the ES provision [50,55] and facing the hydropower
However, moving from a conceptual to an operational frame- development in an ongoing or expanding deforestation scenario.
work, as proposed in the MA publication, was recognized as
necessary to mainstream the ES approach regarding renewable
energy. In that sense, the results revealed a starkly different trend
in the second period (from 2010 to 2017), for which five distinct but 3.2.2. Reducing externalities: environmental flow and multiple
connected subgroups were created. The changes in the topics water users
covered in the articles were also accompanied by an increase in the From the perspective of hydropower and water regulating ser-
number of countries carrying out studies (n ¼ 19). vices, the discussions in the B2 cluster (Fig. 5) were centered on the
Additionally, the concepts of externality and the dependence of challenge of achieving sustainable water management, that is,
ecosystem services flourished in the same period, and the tradeoffs combining multiple water uses and maintaining the ecosystem
analyses were more explored in the articles related to PES. integrity to continue delivering ES to the beneficiaries. Regarding
Analyzing the dependence of the upstream watershed ES on energy hydropower specifically, some scientific articles have addressed the
production appears to be a trend in academia, which supports alterations to downstream flows caused by these projects, focusing
discussions about PES and different valuation methods and tools. on how modifications in the regulating services provided by rivers
As a result, the second period seems to be influenced, on the one may impact provisioning services, such as food provision by fish-
hand, by the TEEB approach and methodology and, on the other eries [56] and water provision for different activities [57]. Other
hand, by the decision making based on multicriteria analysis. The studies have stressed the negative consequences of changes on
network analyses for this period resulted in five thematic clusters. hydrological flood pulses over other regulating services (soil
The first cluster (B1; Fig. 5) addressed the importance of land-use fertilization in riparian areas [58]) and on supporting services
management strategies and their relationship to water conserva- (habitat availability for biota on downstream floodplains [59]).
tion, while the B4 cluster referred mainly to soil conservation and Discussions involving the ES approach and the environmental
erosion control and their impacts on hydropower. Both clusters (B1 flows concept (recently conceived as the quantity, timing, and
and B4; Fig. 5) seemed to contribute to the discussions centered on quality of freshwater flows and levels necessary to sustain aquatic
hydrological issues related to hydropower and water regulating ecosystems which, in turn, support human cultures, economies,
services (B2; Fig. 5). Together these three clusters support the sustainable livelihoods, and well-being [60]) have been important
discussions concerning the conservation of upstream watershed lately, given that impounded rivers around the world are facing
ecosystems via PES (B3; Fig. 5). The latter cluster (B5; Fig. 5) competing uses of water resources as seasonal flood regimes were
brought an economic approach by applying different valuation altered mainly for hydropower and irrigation [56]. However, in
methods and tools to the ES loss, dependence or benefits. regard to water governance and management systems, Pahl-Wostl
et al. [61] stated that a major emphasis has been given to provi-
3.2.1. Hydropower dependence on ecosystem services sioning services mainly because of their most direct socioeconomic
The land-use management explored by the articles included in benefits, whereas regulating and supporting services on sustain-
the B1 cluster (Fig. 5) reinforced the concept of hydropower able environmental flows have been largely neglected due to the
dependence on ES. The relationship between hydropower genera- weakness of quantitative relationships between river flows,
tion and ecosystem conservation at the watershed level become ecosystem states and service functions.
evident in terms of supply and demand for ecosystem services of Despite the discussion on which set of trade-offs should be
water flow regulation and sediment retention [50]. Departing from considered when dealing with hydrological ES (see Ref. [62] for
the perspective that upstream watershed land-uses influence the more details), the incorporation of ES into the environmental flow
amount of hydropower production, some studies are being carried framework could be relevant to raise awareness for the importance
out to determine to what extent investments in the conservation of of ecosystem functions for the resilience of social-ecological sys-
upstream catchments would represent improvements in hydro- tems, to support the negotiation of trade-offs and the development
power production [51e53]. of strategies for adaptive implementation [61].
Aligned with this perspective, Vogl et al. [41] presented a dis- In that sense, a novel market-oriented guideline for hydropower
cussion on this topic and concluded that goals for soil and water development has incorporated the relationship between ES and
conservation should be established and more attention should be environmental flows as a good practice to be considered when
given to the activities that are responsible for the conservation of designing such projects [63]. Nevertheless, considering that some
ecosystem services at the watershed scale. Moreover, the hydropower facilities are acknowledged to be low-carbon options
enhancement of land management policies is essential to increase that allow the penetration of intermittent renewables sources
the value of the ES provided by the landscape and to determine the (such as wind and solar) into an energy grid due to their flexibility
hydroelectricity dependence. [64], special attention should be addressed when adopting such a
Thus, as important as forest conservation is, soil conservation framework. Fernandez et al. [65], for example, observed that ad-
and erosion control (B4; Fig. 5) are the central issues for the res- justments in downstream flows by a hydropower facility to pre-
ervoirs of hydropower facilities. The service of erosion control is the serve some downstream river ES could impose operational
relative contribution of diverse parts of the landscape to sediment constraints to support wind integration. Future research focusing
retention, which means that land use patterns can affect sedi- on to what extent the implementation of environmental flows and
mentation into the downstream reservoir. As a consequence, the the ES framework by hydropower plants might affect their reli-
high sediment deposition impacts the reservoir's water storage ability on offering energy security to the grid are needed to provide
capacity and functioning for hydropower generation [40,54]. adequate trade-offs for some context-specific decision-making
Therefore, conserving and restoring the forest ecosystems at the processes.
46 M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51

3.2.3. Economic incentives to preserve the benefits of ecosystem specific ES, while some studies focused on tourism, education flood
services prevention and maintenance of genetic diversity [39,71], others
Regarding pricing mechanisms aimed at biodiversity conserva- focused on water provision, irrigation and fishery [72,78]. All of
tion, the B3 and B5 clusters (Fig. 5) denote the development of them considered electricity generation in their accounts. In these
economic approaches for correcting market failures that affect ES. papers, the valuation methods played a key role in the planning and
While B3 encompasses articles that addressed PES, in the scope of decision-making in regard to the multiple uses of water. Using
positive externalities underlaid by the steward earns principle, B5 valuation tools to estimate the quantitative value of ES is a recent
focuses on ES valuation methods to negative externalities underlid phenomenon. Currently, quite a few articles make use of valuation
by the polluter pays principle [66]. Both are market-based in- tools to improve their results and identify synergies between
struments (MBI) to create economic incentives for conservation [6]. conservation and development [32]. Of all the tools available, the
The B3 cluster (Fig. 5) covers articles that address PES con- analysis revealed that InVEST was used in two articles to estimate
cerning the relationship between land use, reservoir sedimentation the economic value of ES.
and stakeholder groups. PES is a voluntary and conditional trans- Finally, it is important to understand the small number (n ¼ 7) of
action where there is a well-defined ecosystem service between at articles using valuation tools and methods to estimate the value of
least one supplier and one user [67]. Market schemes for ES include ES related to renewable energy. There are some reasons for this
several hydrological functions related to the quality, quantity, or phenomenon. The first one is related to the key objective of the ES
timing of freshwater flows from upstream areas to downstream approach and the second one has to do with the complexity and
users [6]. This MBI has been conducted for watershed management, uncertainties of the economic valuation methods. As the majority
reservoir conservation, and biodiversity protection by hydropower of scientific research has shown, the main goal of this approach is to
companies, landowners and governments [68]. For instance, Arias assess how ES are physically impacted by renewable energy pro-
et al. [40] presented a modeling framework to estimate the cost for jects [54,79,80]. Although it has been developed, valuation must
forest conservation financed by hydropower via a PES scheme, not be limited to monetary approaches [61]. Instead, a combination
which included land-use change projections, watershed erosion of quantitative and qualitative approaches might bring multiple
modeling, reservoir sedimentation estimations and power gener- roles and values of ecosystem services as well as create awareness
ation loss calculations, and points out the importance of individual of this issue [81]. According to Yang et al. [82], complexity and
modeling, as the lost hydropower revenues from sediment accu- uncertainty in accounting methods depend on ES classification
mulation are mostly determined by both watershed and dam systems, specific accounting techniques and the total ES valuation
characteristics. Alternatively, Vignola et al. [69] discussed different calculation. Indeed, there is a hidden value attached to the ES
incentive structures, in addition to PES, that use negotiation anal- nonholistic approach that makes the total economic value imper-
ysis to build areas of agreement among the different parts in a fect [83]. In accordance, Bateman et al. [84] believed that research
specific decision-making context of stakeholders, converging in into the valuation of ES has not built a large enough stock of
interest in an ES provision. knowledge given the complexity of the demands upon it.
Finally, a separate and distinct cluster of studies focused on all Thus, the valuation of ecosystem services remains a highly
ES valuation methods (B5; Fig. 5), which were also most often contested area [44] and a systematic typology and a comprehensive
explored by studies carried out in China. The distance between this framework for the integrated assessment and valuation of
cluster and the others denotes the ancillary role that the use of ecosystem functions remains elusive [85]. Pandeya et al. [86] also
those methods is assumed to have on ES approaches, as will be pointed out data-scarcity as a main difficulty for an application of
discussed later. Nevertheless, the emergence of this cluster seems locally relevant valuation approaches. Finally, the capacity of the
to be a direct consequence of the launch of TEEB and the COP 10 traditional valuation approach to reduce biodiversity loss through
discussions, as scientific articles about this topic began to appear in mainstream economic drivers is limited. Go  mez-Baggethun and
the sample in 2010. The first scientific paper to address the Perez [66] stated that economic valuation will not solve the prob-
connection between hydropower and ES, published in 2003, was lems and shortcomings of traditional conservation and is likely to
also the first to use a valuation method (travel cost) to estimate the pave the way for the commodification of ecosystem services with
value of ecosystem function loss due to negative externalities from potentially counterproductive effects for biodiversity conservation
the construction and operation of hydropower plants [16]. As the and equity of access to ecosystem services benefits.
travel cost method focuses on the recreational use value [70], it was
applied to estimate the economic value of recreational fishing.
In general, most valuation methods were used to estimate the 3.2.4. Beyond hydropower: what to expect of the ecosystem services
loss of ES from hydropower projects during the operation phase approach for other renewables?
[16,33,71e73]. The most important valuation methods identified Another feature that has characterized the second period was
were willingness to pay, cost-benefit analysis and the market value the development of studies regarding other renewable energy
approach. Most of the articles used the willingness to pay method sources. In this context, the results have outlined different ES ap-
but, in general, combined it with a second one [34,39,73e75]. The proaches to wind power and biomass when compared to those
cost-benefit analysis is also one of the most often-used methods to applied to hydropower. Both wind power articles related to wind
assess the impacts of the construction and operation of power power have reported the importance of considering ES during early
plants on ES [71,76] and externalities to stakeholders [77]. There- planning stages.
fore, the cost-benefit analysis has been used as a key tool for Negative aesthetic issues regarding the landscape caused by
evaluating the sustainability of hydropower projects and, thus, for onshore wind turbines might compromise some cultural ES. In an
depicting the trade-offs between local economic development and analogous way, the installation of offshore wind farms may have
the reduction in ecosystem services, as shown by Kubiszewski et al. adverse effects on fisheries, a provisioning service. For both cases,
[77]. the negative impacts could be alleviated by identifying critical areas
It is not a coincidence that the studies approaching the depen- before wind farm installation. Either for onshore [87] or offshore
dence on ES by hydropower plants focused on the operation phase [88] wind farms, spatial planning methods were applied to find
and use valuation methods to estimate the monetary values from optimal solutions by enhancing the exploitation of wind resources
provision, regulation and cultural ES. Going deeper on other while reducing the impacts on ES. Then, the adoption of the ES
M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51 47

approach for wind farms may have a positive effect on the devel- valuation attempt in practice needs to involve many stakeholders
opment of these projects in a more sustainable way. and should consider mixes of monetary and nonmonetary methods
In relation to the biomass study, the ES approach provided a in these valuation processes. In this context, designing an interac-
baseline to support a trade-off analysis between the use of willow tive science-policy process is crucial to provide advances on this
shrub woody biomass with other bioenergy feedstock, aiming to topic and, thus, increase the likelihood of using the knowledge
identify the best alternative for land management [89]. Although produced [93].
not supplying all the needs of the studied power plant, besides The network analysis has also shown that the terms preferen-
increasing the resilience of the power system and the diversity of tially used in university-produced articles have emphasized the
alternative energy technologies, willow shrub crops may also negative impacts caused by hydropower facilities, differing from
reduce nutrient loss and erosion and improve biodiversity, adapt- those cited by institutions directly involved in the management of
ability to climate change and access to recreational activities [89]. energy projects. This fact was denoted by some of the terms used in
Nevertheless, due to the well-known impacts of agriculture on studies (such as “flow regime alterations”, “environmental im-
the environment and their footprint on land use, Holland et al. [44] pacts” and “biodiversity loss”), which, in turn, may suggest the
stressed the importance of future research on the relationship be- importance of incorporating the ES approach by practitioners in
tween bioenergy and ES. Land use change is regarded as the main environmental impact assessments [94], even before commis-
driver of biodiversity loss and ES degradation worldwide [12], sioning renewable energy projects, to reduce negative externalities
making the use of spatial data imperative, i.e., taking account of the and potential conflicts since it inserts the human well-being
distribution of resources providing ES. Thus, incorporating spatial dimension in the decision-making process. The use of the ES
dimension on ES approach is a relevant matter also to energy sys- approach to assess environmental and social impacts has been seen
tems planning. as a conceptual innovation that can improve the impact assessment
practice [95], allowing better estimates of whether and how the
3.3. The role of institutions on disseminating the ecosystem services impacts of an activity can be mitigated in the permitting decisions
approach for renewable energy made by governments [93]. Additionally, contradicting the fact that
renewable energy facilities commonly cause impacts on landscapes
The ES concept operates as a boundary object, i.e., one that (e.g., Ref. [45]), the results gathered by this study have indicated
structures and circulates through different fields of knowledge [4], that cultural ES has been painstakingly overlooked in scientific ar-
being robust enough to act as a channel of communication between ticles. Only two university-produced studies have published ma-
different contexts and perspectives [90]. The results presented in terial on cultural ES. Research attempting to address the relation
this section envisage the perspectives on the use of ES when between cultural ES, human well-being and renewables is required
dealing with renewable energy according to the type of institution to provide suitable mitigation measures and trade-offs.
that carried out the study. As discussed in detail, the outcomes from Furthermore, although companies, governments, NGOs and
the heterogeneous network analysis indicated that institutions even the UN have had minor participation (26%) in scientific pro-
engaged in these discussions in distinct manners, in terms of sci- duction, such an incipient movement can indicate an effort from
entific production, in the positions that each institution assumed practitioners to spread their field experience on the ES approach
on the subject, and in the arrangements among them (Fig. 6). beyond the more conventional gray literature (technical reports or
As expected, members exclusively from universities had a books, for instance), achieving also a scientific community. In
leading role in scientific production, coauthoring 74% of all articles. addition, a stronger degree of interactions among these institutions
Helping decision-makers see and understand how the ES approach was observed due to the various links connecting the different
describes the real world is one of the many roles of academic topics covered by their articles. For instance, a convergence of in-
scholars [91], but the results presented in this study reveal that terests was found for companies, NGOs and government agencies,
there is still opportunity for improvements regarding to ES as all of them mentioned the “stakeholder engagement process”
approach on renewable energy, i.e., evolving from scientific pro- and “river basin management”.
duction to an effective mainstream. Although university-produced Although a UN member took part in a single article regarding
studies have covered a greater number and more diverse ES topics hydrological issues and hydropower [59], the network analysis
(A cluster; Fig. 6), thus providing innovative scientific knowledge revealed topics that have common importance also to companies,
regarding ES and renewables, the single link and the distance be- governments and NGOs, such as “aquatic ecosystems”, “flow
tween its cluster and the other four suggests a minor influence of regime” and “economic value” (C, Fig. 6). The inclusion of these
their findings on practitioners. In this sense, it is important to topics signifies the importance of accounting for river flows when
highlight that academia had a major focus on using valuation defining hydropower projects, as an attempt to reduce biodiversity
methods to address the ES approach with renewable energy. loss and preserve the integrity of the downstream ecosystems (e.g.,
However, whether and how the use of these valuation methods is floodplains and wetlands). This issue is of such relevance to the UN
adding value to discussions regarding renewable energy projects is that it was discussed in a special MA issue [96].
still a matter of future research since some of these valuation The proximity between company and NGO clusters (D and E,
schemes were adopted to raise awareness of the dependence of Fig. 6) indicates relatedness both in the topics of relevance to the
hydropower generation on specific ES. For example, most ES eco- two institutions and in the way of perceiving them. Taking into
nomic valuation studies posed by academia promised to be useful consideration that “conservation and development” was a common
for the decision-making process; however, as they do not rely upon topic for both institutions, it is possible to conclude that the ar-
precision and context, the certainty regarding whether the tools rangements between them are aimed at delivering practical out-
offered to potential users are the best match for real decision- comes in regard to the ES approach. In addition to mentioning the
making needs is in question [92]. The data gathered by the pre- positive externalities provided by some hydropower plants (e.g.,
sent study supports a similar trend regarding renewable energy “flow regulation”), the terms “watershed”, “sedimentation” and
since the mentions of “stakeholder groups” and “decision makers” “erosion control” indicate that companies have addressed concerns
in the university articles reinforce that a less pragmatic and more about the dependence that their facilities have on some ES (D,
generic approach is addressed by such studies. As defended by Fig. 6). This can be a consequence of market-oriented publications,
Costanza et al. [37], to provide sustainable outcomes, any ES which have been delivering important guides, protocols and
48 M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51

Fig. 6. Cooccurrence network map of extracted terms for the “specific” article group (n ¼ 49) per institution type from 2003 to 2017.

methods to understand the costs of ecosystem degradation and to actions, these facilities are the most common service buyers in PES
recognize the dependence on ecosystem services at the renewable schemes [99]. Considering the potential of PES schemes to alleviate
energies project level. International Finance Corporation (IFC) upstream-downstream river conflicts [97], policies designed to
incorporated ES in the Performance Standards, meaning that all nurture such initiatives should be encouraged worldwide.
IFC-financed projects are required to preserve the benefits from ES Concerns regarding national or regional development aspects,
[27]. Furthermore, the World Resource Institute (WRI) developed a such as “economic growth”, “power generation” and “policy”, in
six-step method for identifying and managing a project's potential alignment with “land management”, “water conservation” and
impacts and dependencies on ecosystems and ecosystem services “scenarios” characterized the scope of government-produced arti-
[94]. Similarly, the Natural Capital Protocol [28] launched a stan- cles (B, Fig. 6). In this context, the terms selected reinforce the role
dardized framework for businesses to incorporate ES into decision- of the government in establishing policies to accommodate both
making, helping them to avoid risks and look for opportunities private short-term goals with societal long-term goals [100], which
regarding natural capital. In this regard, the present study has was endorsed by the links connecting to companies, NGOs and the
evidenced this concern since mentions to “resource management” UN (B, Fig. 6). A comprehensive approach could be accomplished by
were presented in company-produced articles (D, Fig. 6). means of adopting spatial planning since early renewable energy
On the other hand, to accomplish all dimensions of “resource development stages to settle potential conflicts (e.g., Refs. [41,87]).
management”, mainly in regard to hydropower plants, companies Picchi et al. [45], for instance, argued that landscape modification
have relied upon partnerships with NGOs. By means of the caused by renewable energy technologies is the most important
“stakeholder engagement process”, NGOs have provided the prac- factor driving the lack of social acceptance by local communities,
tical background needed to implement conservation actions that the so-called “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome, because of
benefit both companies and ecosystems and this was achieved their pronounced impacts on the supply of some cultural ES (such
through “payment for ecosystem services” schemes (E, Fig. 6). as aesthetics and heritage). Regarding river basin management, as
Bennet et al. [97], in a review on payment for watershed services detailed in section 3.2.1, some studies have also discussed the
programs, stated that in a scenario where continuous land-use importance of landscape watershed planning to address multiple
conflicts took place, NGOs were featured as strategic in- water uses, including hydropower generation (e.g., Refs. [41,53]).
termediaries in the implementation of such programs since they With the advent of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Plat-
bridge the trust gap between landowners and utilities, thus facili- form on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services e IPBES [101], efforts
tating a negotiation solution [98]. In Latin America, for instance, to render the ES concept more operational and linked with
since hydropower plants benefit from upstream conservation decision-making will start to take place in the policy agenda [93]. In
M.A. Especie et al. / Renewable Energy 140 (2019) 39e51 49

that sense, decision-making on the environmental implications of Acknowledgements

energy pathways might go beyond climate change, with concerns
regarding the loss of biodiversity and ES caused by energy facilities This research did not receive any specific grant from funding
by governments, which, on the other hand, might take these as- agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. We are
pects into consideration when discussing future energy scenarios grateful to Isaura Frega, former EPE's Superintendent of Social-
[44]. Environment and Sustainability, for supporting this Ecosystem
Services Workgroup's initiative. Our deepest gratitude to Jessica
Moraes and Caroline Freitas for their assistance with the writing of
4. Conclusions
the manuscript. We also acknowledge the valuable comments and
suggestions on the manuscript from the anonymous reviewers. The
The world is facing an energy transition, and sustainable energy
opinions presented in this article are authors' responsibility and do
planning is essential to ensure the continuity of the energy supply
not reflect the view of the Energy Research Office (EPE) or the
with the predetermined quality standards of energy grids with the
Brazilian Government.
lowest cost, risks and environmental and socioeconomic impacts
[102]. Renewable energy sources are an option to achieve climate
change mitigation and energy security goals at the same time [103], Appendix A. Supplementary data
but the environmental problem of greenhouse gas emissions
should not be replaced with other environmental problems [79]. Supplementary data to this article can be found online at
Due to some of its characteristics, such as intermittency and sea-
sonal and daily variations of energy generation, the expansion of
renewable energy worldwide may demand context-specific solu- References
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