An Innovate UK-funded project has created a unique partnership between Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission plc and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the body that regulates its business activity.
The result of their collaboration is a prototype geographic information system (GIS) tool. It allows a business or other organisation to calculate the value of changes in land use, especially where there might be risks to wildlife or the wider environment.
It combines publicly available environmental datasets with ecosystem service information and could be widely used by those undertaking environmental impact assessments.
The project, called VALUES, is a rare case of ‘regulator’ and ‘regulated’ working together constructively to solve a business problem: how to place a value on changes in land use.
That’s not always the case, as George Cobb, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission’s group sustainability accountant, explained:
Because of our regulatory relationship with SEPA, it’s inevitable that we sometimes find ourselves sitting on opposite sides of the table.
But we want to establish industry best practice, so we are keen to explore new ideas. For this 12-month project we were able to work together on something quite novel. We are now able to share that learning, not just between ourselves and SEPA but with others, such as the RSPB.
To generate revenue from it would be good. But for us it’s more about cost savings. That could also be translated into lower transmission costs for customers.
The project attracted funding in a feasibility studies competition ‘Solving business problems with environmental data’ and was profiled at a Collaboration Nation event in London.
Meanwhile, SEPA has entered into a separate partnership with the University of Stirling to launch a new centre of excellence, the Centre for Sustainable Practice and Living.
Terry A’Hearn, SEPA chief executive, said:
The role of environment protection agencies is changing. We are no longer here simply to ensure compliance with regulations, but to work collaboratively with communities, businesses and other public bodies to make the most of the opportunities which top-class environmental practice brings.