Project: IRENES - Integrating RENewable energy and Ecosystem Services in environmental and energy policies

IRENES aims to better understand how net zero carbon policies and strategies are utilised for the delivery of renewable energy sources. The project looks at this relationship from a land use perspective and critically analyses the complexity of their interactions.

Three people in hi-viz jackets and white hard hats standing in a field full of solar panels

A local and international project

IRENES is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. We're working with partners in the UK, as well as Italy, Germany, Estonia and Romania.

Visit the main IRENES website Watch a video about IRENES

The IRENES project will put in place an interregional knowledge and experience exchange process to identify gaps and barriers within net zero strategies and energy policies regarding the renewable energy sources (RES) and eco-system services (ES) co-relation, including environmental, social, economic, and governance concerns.

It is of paramount importance to integrate the potential RES development trade-offs and co-benefits with ES into territorial development policies.

In the UK case study, the ARU team is working with the University of East Anglia to assess options for low and net-zero carbon heating in rural parts of the East of England that are not connected to the gas grid.

The most important IRENES outputs are the 5 Action Plans addressing the improvement of the target regional and national structural funds programmes, and other environmental and energy policies related to RES exploitation and ES flows.

The principal unique delivery of the Action Plan is the IRENES Land Use Opportunities Tool. We have secured funding from the Greater South East Net Zero Hub to develop and pilot the tool in the five counties of the East of England.

It will provide data layers, multi-dimensional analyses, and query/scenario templates for local authority users to benefit from in their renewable energy technology and infrastructure planning to meet net zero strategy targets. It will also be signposted from the Energy Systems Catapult Net Zero Go platform.

It will additionally provide evidence to support the Clean Growth Strategy and the UK government aspiration restated in the 25 Year Environment Plan to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

In 2023, when proof of concept and impact has been demonstrated, it is expected to be funded for Phase 2 into another 11 county areas of the South East.

Main thematic outputs:

  • Five scanning and analysis instruments (one per target area) to assess the state of the art (SOTA) of renewable energy generation in eastern England, and five strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis of policy instruments, providing an overview of how well counties are performing in relation to IRENES goals;
  • Five maps of trade-offs and synergies between RES exploitation and ES provided by the territory in each case study;
  • Five interregional site visits, leading to in-depth peer review sessions of RES and SWOT analyses of each case study;
  • Five Local IRENES Knowledge Accelerators steering interregional and local exchange of experience and policy learning through co-learning and participatory activities addressed to stakeholders, as ten capacity building workshops, five job shadowing exchanges, five role-playing simulation sessions.

A main outcome will be that 45 individuals from project partners' staff and stakeholder groups will be directly involved in IRENES activities.

An estimated 500 people will become better equipped and more efficient in managing and implementing environment and energy policies, coordinated by Structural Funds programmes and other relevant strategies, as a result of additional knowledge, improved decision-making skills, and new relations acquired during the interregional exchange of experience process.

The total budget amounts to € 1,781,783 (ERDF: € 1,514,515.55). IRENES is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg Europe Programme.


24 November 2022

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