|Newsletter #3 29 October 2015|
The INSPIRE-Grid consortium has achieved major milestones during the past couple of months:
You can read more about the rationale behind this choice in the publication “Selection of case studies” (link), published in March 2015 and more information about the projects further below.
Secondly, the first public workshop took place in Milan, Italy in May. The event was combined with a workshop of the BESTGRID project that is also dealing with engagement tools and strategies for grid development. During the workshop, ETH and Poliedra tested a multi-criteria analysis on power line alternatives. Through a role play game, 35 stakeholders discussed the ranking of economic, environmental, socio-economic and landscape related criteria in four groups. These rankings have been used to select or exclude power line routing alternatives for a hypothetical grid project.
In this issue:
1. Case studies: collecting data and testing methodologies
Three grid projects were chosen for the INSPIRE-Grid case studies: Cergy-Persan (RTE), the Bamble-Rød and Aurland-Sogndal (both Statnett). Improving the security of supply of a region and integrating electricity produced by renewables are the main similarities of these grid projects. They represent the energy transition in Europe to fight climate changewhile safeguarding security of supply.
The case studies will allow to obtain concrete recommendations for stakeholders involved also in other infrastructure projects, which will be published in a handbook of guidelines. The case studies’ results will identify the added value of engagement methods and their operational modalities for improving the decision making process of grid projects. Our partners PIK and Poliedra have started with their fieldwork in Norway already, and are currently evaluating the collected data.
More information on this methodology in general can be found in the publication “Multi-stakeholder and multi-criteria methodologies”
For more information about the fieldwork of PIK and Poliedra, read an interview with the researchers below.
The following three case studies have been chosen:
Launched in 2013, the project aims at preventing congestion between the North of Ile de France where new renewable power plants are implemented, and Ile de France where there is a lack of production (due to the density of population and decommissioning of classic thermal power plants). The project includes the upgrade of an existing 20km long 225 kV overhead line to 400 kV, in addition to two existing 400 kV power lines. To that end, most of the existing pylons will be reused and upgraded – either heightened or strengthened if necessary -, in accordance with the technical requirements related to 400 kV.
The line to be upgraded crosses two distinct areas, namely a densely populated urban area around the city of Cergy and a regional nature park – the Vexin Français regional nature park. In such a context, the main siting issue is to identify a way to lead the works by avoiding and mitigating any possible negative impacts, particularly regarding the natural area.
Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is applied to this project to compare the environmental benefits and impacts with and without the project. It aims at complementing the Cost Benefit Analysis justification at the beginning of grid projects, during the need definition phase. Afterwards, PIK and RTE will determine the added value of the LCA and its conditions for success of grid projects.
The project concerns a new 420 kV power line whose main purpose is to improve the security of supply in Southern Norway, to facilitate increased power exchanges and to favour the development of renewable energy. While the new line is 34 km long, 5kmof an existing power line was taken down and rerouted in parallel with the Bamble-Rød line. Two new substations were also built in Bamble and Grenland.
The case study aims at collecting all the data considered necessary to define the set of indicators and weights needed to conduct a multi-criteria analysis (MCA) in order to prepare the implementation of a full MCA in future projects. Poliedra has been in charge of collecting and structuring data from Statnett, and of developing the MCA methodology. PIK has elaborated and organized interviews with eleven stakeholders at the beginning of June 2015, to present the MCA’s results to stakeholders and to rank the different alternatives. The researchers are currently evaluating the benefits of using MCA in the stakeholder engagement process.
The project consists of building a new 420kV overhead transmission line between the Aurland hydropower station and the Sogndal substation. This new line will replace an existing 300 kV power line between Aurland and Sogndal that will be decommissioned and removed at the end. In addition, 6-7 km of another 300 kV power line between Fardal and Hove will also be rerouted.
This upgrade will improve the transmission capacity across Sognefjorden and connect the 420 kV grid in Aurland to the new Ørskog-Sogndal power line, which is currently under construction. The Aurland-Sogndal section is currently considered the main bottleneck in the region.. It will furthermore contribute to provide the necessary capacity to accompany the development of renewable energy production.
Thanks to the MCA developed in the Bamble-Rød case study, experimenting a full MCA will be possible in the the Aurland-Sognald case study for both stakeholder engagement and the decision-making process related to the siting of the transmission line.
Interview with Andrzej Ceglarz from PIK and Simona Muratori from Poliedra, who carried out the fieldwork for the Bamble-Rød case study
Andrzej, in early June you and Simona were in South-Norway for the first field trip. Could you explain the work you conducted there?
You haven’t completed the analysis yet, but can you share your first impressions of how the stakeholders view the engagement process?
Was there anything else that surprised you?
Simona, you are looking at Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) in this case study. Were you able to test whether or not stakeholders can give useful indications about the importance of different siting criteria?
What are the next steps?
2. Get to know our partners: RTE and PIK
RTE is the French Transmission System Operator (TSO) in charge of the operation, the maintenance and the development of the high and very high voltage grid (100 000km from 63 to 400kV), and also managing the interconnection lines with other European countries. It is a company of about 8500 people and the largest TSO in Europe.
As a TSO whose projects have a strong connection with local territories, RTE has for a long time been aware of the necessity to address stakeholders’ expectations and needs in an appropriate way. We believe that dialogue and a better mutual understanding are both keys success factors for a better acceptance of grid infrastructure and a way to complement the mandatory participatory processes, although insufficient to ensure a productive collaboration with stakeholders.
That is why RTE has been exploring new paths consisting in engaging the public earlier, better informing stakeholders, making benefits brought by grid projects more visible and especially experimenting innovative participatory approaches to make stakeholders active actors of the decision-making process.
RTE is deeply convinced that tools of participatory democracy that involve citizens in the development of grid projects are one of the promising ways to build shared solutions. And INSPIRE-Grid will help to deepen such practices thanks to new experiments.
What are important lessons that RTE has drawn out of its experience in stakeholder engagement so far?
Theory surely helps to understand stakeholders’ expectations, and developing innovative participatory approaches is obviously a necessity to answer them properly. Yet, no silver bullet exists to improve the acceptability of power grid projects in general. Only through direct relation with local stakeholders and in the frame of each specific project identified solutions can become possible.
Nonetheless, the possibility to develop projects of general interest in the respect of individuals’ preferences has to be a responsibility shared by TSOs, their stakeholders and public authorities. Thus, while TSOs should support the establishment of a fair dialogue with stakeholders and integrate their preferences, it is important for stakeholders to understand that projects are compromise solutions between the numerous interests involved.
In parallel, we have noticed that stakeholders need to get answers not only about grid projects, but also about national and European energy policies. It is, finally, of the utmost importance that public authorities endorse their role as guarantors of the general interest and manage the necessary trade-offs in the process, so that the power grid can play its role in the future electricity system.
What do you hope to get out of INSPIRE-Grid?
We hope that INSPIRE GRID will help TSOs to identify new practices and methods to complete the toolbox for a good public participation. We also need recommendations about the necessary conditions for applying the tools to make the project successful.
And most of all, we hope to better understand why certain projects suffer from a lack of acceptance despite a large public participation process and consistent efforts from TSOs in terms of communication and fair relationships with stakeholders.
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), founded in 1992, is a government-funded research institute addressing crucial scientific questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development. PIK currently has around 300 employees and is a member of the Leibniz Association, whose institutions perform fundamental and applied research on subjects of high relevance to society.
What is – in your view – the added value of the project INSPIRE-Grid?
From our scientific point of view one of the most interesting questions the project intends to answer is which participation tools and methods in the decision-making process for new power lines work and which not. We are especially interested in the effects of “soft” factors, such as cultural and organizational settings, framings of the process, role of the individuals engaged in the process and personal networks as they are still poorly understood until now.
How will the research you are doing help tackling the challenges related to stakeholder engagement in grid planning procedures?
We hope that our research will contribute to a more accepted and legitimate outcome of grid planning procedures. This is what we mean with a “better” engagement process. So far, we have developed a theoretical framework for engagement processes in power grid planning and a preliminary set of guidelines for TSOs to help them selecting the appropriate engagement methods depending on the kind of project, project stage and resources available. With the results of the three empirical case studies we will further improve the framework and the guidelines, including also what we learned about the “soft” factors. The results should be meaningful for TSOs, authorities and regulators, which, in the end, have to decide if they want to integrate our findings into their processes and policies.
What are your first important lessons learned from the work done so far?
The last months were dedicated to preparing the fieldwork in Norway, which was a very intensive process, both technically and content-wise. Since three partners of the consortium were involved (Statnett, Poliedra and PIK), the preparatory process showed how important communication and constant updating is. Since representatives of different approaches towards infrastructural energy projects participated in the study visit (practitioners, engineers and social scientists), it was an enriching experience to learn from each other about different focuses and specific aspects important to the specialists. Such an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and conclusions will definitely contribute to the results of our research.
Moreover, the fieldwork itself was an interesting experience in the context of a “real” interaction with stakeholders. In the interviews it became clear, that the perception of the project is different among people depending on what kind of role they adopt: the response on a question would differ if the stakeholder answered as a citizen, as a part of a bigger community, as an individual or as a representative of any association.
Going into the “field” furthermore held the advantage of including site visits next to the interviews. That proved to be useful for better understanding concerns, needs or attitudes of the stakeholders, as it is much easier when you can personally see the infrastructure (i.e. pylons) itself, its spatial dimension and how it did affect different stakeholders. Despite intense preparation for the fieldwork, reading many documents, analysing maps and information provided by Statnett, the perception changes when you are on the spot.
3. Short introduction to our research: what is webGIS?
INSPIRE-Grid analyses and tests some tools that help stakeholder engagement during decision-making processes. Besides MCA, LCA, this is a tool called webGIS.
How far is the new line from my house? What is there under the new line? Does it cross some valuable areas? What is this protected area valuable for?
These are some questions that people can ask when a new line is proposed and webGIS can be a good tool to obtain some answers in an intuitive and straightforward way. WebGIS stands for an online “Geographical Information System” and allows users to access relevant information about the a new power line and the crossed area through a geographical interface, with a simple “point and click”, requiring no specific skills nor particular software: a browser is sufficient.
What’s more, webGIS can be used as a powerful tool to gather valuable input, such as comments and suggestions from the general public and elicit preferences about, for instance, the points that deserve major protection.
4. Guest corner: Public participation and transparency in power grid planning
The environment and climate NGO Germanwatch has published a handbook in May which highlights new approaches that have been tested by the partners of the European BESTGRID project. Within BESTGRID, transmission system operators from Belgium, the UK, Italy and Germany have closely cooperated with national and regional non-governmental organisations. Germanwatch has been following the jointly developed good practice approaches to early and transparent power grid planning and has compiled its findings in this handbook.
The handbook provides answers to the following questions:
Our recommendations are addressed to local stakeholders and invite them to contribute their experience and expertise in support of the energy transition and the much needed power grid transformation. It also provides power grid operators with examples of good practice in formal and informal stakeholder engagement and encourages the exchange of experience between them.
The handbook is available on Germanwatch’s website: https://germanwatch.org/en/10127
5. Event announcements
The Ten-E legislation, regulating projects of common European interest (PCIs), has been in place for more than two years now. The first list of PCIs has been identified and first experiences when implementing the regulation have been gained. Almost for the same time, the project BESTGRID has been running: grid operators have been working with environmental groups and other stakeholders in pilot projects on the ground, testing new approaches and finding innovative ways of cooperation as part of the BESTGRID project. The final Conference of the project will take place on 23 September in Brussels. Join discussions about BESTGRID lessons learned and best practice insights for the implementation of PCIs. Register here.
INSPIRE-Grid is an EU-funded research project that stands for “Improved and eNhanced Stakeholders Participation In Reinforcement of Electricity Grid.”With ten partners from six different countries, INSPIRE-Grid aims to increase stakeholder engagement in grid expansion projects, better manage conflicts, and speed up the permitting process. By way of an interdisciplinary approach, INSPIRE-Grid will develop stakeholder-led processes and design an expert-led European good practice guide. Methods to facilitate decision-making will be newly combined with engagement tools and tested with stakeholders from existing or concluded grid development project case studies.
INSPIRE-Grid partners: research institutes (Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico – RSE SpA (coordinator), Association pour la recherché et le developpement des methods et processus industriels – ARMINES, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich – ETHZ, Institut für ZukunftsEnergieSysteme – IZES, Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung – PIK, Poliedra Centri di Conoscenza e Formazione del Politecnico di Milano – Poliedra), transmission system operators (National Grid, RTE, Statnett), and the stakeholder platform Renewables-Grid-Initiative – RGI.