skip to primary navigationskip to content

Centre for Sustainable Development

Est 2000 - home of the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

Studying at Cambridge


BP Foreseer Project: Future Resource Pathways


Staff from the Centre for Sustainable Development are working with colleagues in  Engineering and other Departments in the University on a project funded by BP to analyse coupled resource systems, with particular reference to interlinking pathways of water, energy and land use. This is part of the BP initiated  Energy Sustainability Challenge which is bringing Universities from around the world together to address the impact of evolving stresses on natural resources and ecosystem services on the supply, production and demand for energy.

Due to population growth, economic development and climate change, the globe is approaching what Professor John Beddington, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, termed a ‘perfect storm’ of linked energy, water, and land resource crises. The need to drive changes in the energy system because of climate change is already well documented. More than 1.2 billion people already experience water scarcity, and this will rise if global water demand rises, as forecast, by as much as 60% from 2000 to 2025. Water for agriculture may be especially stressed. Competition for water and land between food and energy production, the needs of an increasing urbanised and developed global population as well as the need to have sufficient reserves to provide biodiversity and other ecosystem services will become critical in the next 40 years. 

The Foreseer project at the University of Cambridge has created an online tool for visualising the influence of future demand scenarios on requirements for energy, water and land resources. Our ambition is that this tool will be widely used, by industry, policy‐makers, researchers and others aiming to avoid unacceptable resource stress. The basis of the tool is a set of linked physical models for energy, water and land plus the technologies that transform those resources into final services – e.g. housing, food, transport and goods.

The inputs to the Foreseer tool include forecasts of demand for final services which derive from energy, water and land resources as well as editable technology scenarios to predict how technology performance and selection (e.g. between electric or petrol cars) may evolve over time. The tool allows sensitivity studies to predict the value of technology innovations. 

The Foreseer tool visualises linked energy, water and land resource futures by outputting a set of Sankey diagrams for energy, water and land, showing the flow from basic resource (e.g. coal, surface water, and forested land) through transformations (e.g. fuel refining and desalination) to final services (e.g. sustenance, hygiene and transportation).

For more information see:

Email enquiries:

Credit: The Foreseer Team