Renewable energy and ecosystems protection in the Alps

Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program researchers and partners developed a decision support system (DSS) for the entire Alpine region, aiming at quantifying renewable energy potentials balanced with ecosystem services protection.

© Cristian Andriana | Dreamstime

© Cristian Andriana | Dreamstime

The underlying scenarios for the DSS are based on a comparative Geographic Information System approach. This identified and aggregated the large suite of protection areas and corresponding regulations, as well as their suitability for the different renewable energy types. To assess the different local renewable energy potentials and impacts, a harmonization method has been developed: Figure 1 shows the results, where the low protection scenario allows two-thirds of the Alpine area to be used without constraints for renewable energy production; only 3% are incompatible. The high protection scenario only features half of the Alpine space as unconstrained, while the other half is incompatible, or only marginally compatible, with renewable energy production.

This work was accompanied by substantial policymaker and stakeholder engagement. The DSS—publicly accessible online via the Joint Ecological Continuum Analysing and Mapping Initiative—enables all stakeholders to access and visualize the results. The numerous events to promote and disseminate the project included the Renewable Energy Production Workshop in Cuneo, the International Workshop on Renewable Energy & Nature conservation In Vienna, and the side event the EU-Greenweek 2015 in Brussels. Florian Kraxner, Sylvain Leduc, and Hernan Serrano Leon contributed two chapters in the handbook (Sustainable Renewable Energy Planning in the Alps, A handbook for experts & decision makers) and coordinated two reports (recommendations and lessons learned for a renewable energy strategy in the Alps;  modeling and the visualization of renewable energy in the Alps). The project was completed with a final conference in Sonthofen, Germany and the project results are available online.

Figure 1. Harmonization of environmental protection areas. The protected areas have been harmonized with the list of International Union for Conservation of Nature categories to define priorities. The low protection scenario (top) shows substantially more unconstrained and compatible area for renewable energy production than the high protection scenario (bottom). The compatibility categories are indicated by the color ramp in the legend and compatibility shares of the total Alpine space are indicated in the pie-charts. Source: modified after EEA 2014, UNEP-WCMC 2014; Alpine Nature 2030, BMU 2016.


[1] Ciolli M, Garegnani G, Hastik R, Kraxner F, Kuenzer N, Miotello F, Paletto A, Svadlenak-Gomez K, Ullrich-Schneider A, & Walzer C (2015). Energy & nature in the Alps: a balancing act. Perpetual calendar. Project.

[2] Kraxner F, Leduc S, & Serrano H. (2015). Alpine Space model. Chapter 01 in: Modeling and visualization of optimal locations for renewable energy production in the Alpine Space with a special focus on selected pilot areas. WP5 Report. Kraxner F and Leduc S, eds. Alpine Space Project. Available at:

[3] Kraxner F, Leduc S, & Serrano León H. (2015). Recommendations/lessons learned at the Alpine level. Chapter 01 in: Recommendations and lessons learned for a renewable energy strategy in the Alps. WP5 Report. Kraxner F and Leduc S, eds. Alpine Space Project. Available at:

[3] Leduc S, Kindermann G, Forsell N, Kraxner F. (2015). Bioenergy potential from forest biomass. 1: 35-48. In: Yan J ed., The Handbook of Clean Energy Systems. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[4] Leduc S, Kraxner F, Serrano León H, Garegnani G, & Walzer C. (2015). Energy Modeling on the Alpine Bow. Poster presented at the International Conference Systems Analysis 2015, 11-13 November 2015. 

[5] Leduc S, Wetterlund E, Dotzauer E, & Kindermann G (2012). CHP or Biofuel Production in Europe? Energy Procedia 20:40-49.

[6] Serrano León H, Leduc S & Kraxner F (2015). Harmonizing compatibility assumptions between protection designations and renewable energy potential. Poster presented at the International Conference Systems Analysis 2015, 11-13 November 2015, Laxenburg, Austria. 

[7] Balest, J., Bertin, S., Curetti, G., D'Alonzo, V., Berchtold-Domig, M., Garegnani, G., Grilli, G., Haimerl, G., Kraxner, F., Kuenzer, N., Leduc, S., Miotello, F., Petrinjak, A., Piske, R., Poljanec, A., Portaccio, A., Serrano Leon, H., Simoncic, T., Zambelli, P. and Zangrando, E. (2015) Renewable energy exploitation and ecosystems services: Alpine region and pilot area analysis. In: Sustainable Renewable Energy Planning in the Alps. project, Vienna, Austria, pp. 70-119. 

[8] Leduc, S., Kraxner, F., Serrano Leon, H., Vettorato, D., Garegnani, G., Poljanec, A., Hastik, R., Geitner, C., Berchtold-Domig, M., Ciolli, M., Geri, F., Grilli, G., Gros, J., Kralj, T., Sacchelli, S., Vrscaj, B. and Zambelli, P. (2015) Decision support systems. In: Sustainable Energy Planning in the Alps. A handbook for experts and decision makers. project, Vienna, Austria, pp. 29-59. 

[9] Svadlenak-Gomez K, Badura M, Kraxner F, Fuss S, Vettorato D & Walzer C (2013). Valuing Alpine ecosystems: the project will help decision-makers to reconcile renewable energy production and biodiversity conservation in the Alps; eco.mont Journal on Protected Mountain Areas Research 05


Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Germany

Alpine Space Project, Germany

European Academy of Bozen, Italy

University Innsbruck, Austria

Environment Agency Austria

Regional Development Vorarlberg, Austria

Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, Austria

International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), Liechtenstein

Slovenia Forest Service

World Wide Fund for Nature Austria

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Last edited: 07 April 2016


Florian Kraxner

Research Group Leader and Principal Research Scholar Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

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