Local stakeholders

What’s in the toolkit for you?: 

Will a grid development project potentially affect you directly, your city, your community or your region? Many people are concerned about being impacted by a grid development project. Actually, it is a real advantage that you are not the first one to be influenced by a grid development project because there are a lot of lessons learnt about how concerns of affected local stakeholders – e.g. citizens, Land owners and local politicians – can be involved in the whole process of a grid development project and how your input can be included in order to establish a constructive and cooperative communication between all stakeholders throughout all project stages.

If you are occupying yourself with grid development projects for the first time, you are probably interested in understanding the whole process of grid development, the possibilities to participate in it and address your concerns. This toolkit helps you to do so and this User guide is especially written to introduce Local Stakeholders to the toolkit that will tell you how you can make best use of it. Also, for Local Stakeholders with experience in grid development projects this toolkit most likely contains useful information.

In a nutshell, this the toolkit helps you to gather important information about grid development projects in Europe and how you as a local stakeholder can participate in all relevant dialogues to safeguard your interests and rights. The aim of this toolkit is to lead to a constructive communication and cooperation among all stakeholders; including you.

How does the toolkit work?: 

The toolkit is structured along categories of communication and participation elements in the context of power grid projects. These include the different Stakeholders involved, the Project Stages, the communication Channels, the communication Formats and the Contents conveyed. Each of these categories contains several profiles specifying, for example, the different types of stakeholders or the different project stages. These profiles do not only provide a thorough description but also link the profiles to one another showing how communication elements in the context of grid projects work together. The descriptions are accompanied by questions that help to identify where further, project-specific information is needed. In addition, the toolkit provides several Practice Examples showing how different toolkit elements have proven to work in the frame of real-life grid projects.

How do you make the toolkit work for you?: 

There are two recommended ways for using this toolkit: First, you can directly go to the Adjacent communities profile where you will find a summary of all aspects related to communication on grid lines, e.g. other stakeholders, channels or contents, which are relevant for you. Second, you can follow the more detailed explanation below which describes all relevant aspects along the different stages of a grid development project.

Using the toolkit along the project stages

In the following, the toolkit functioning is explained in detail taking the point of view of a local stakeholder so that you can make full use of it. The explanation is structured along the different stages of a grid development project. This allows you to identify the project stage that is of most interest to you and directly dive deeper into the respective content.If you are unsure what project stages are relevant for the project currently affecting you, the profiles within this toolkit explaining the different project stages will help you to identify the right stage. Further information on the current stage of different grid development projects are usually published on the Project websites or on the website of the TSO in charge of the project.For each project stage, the explanation shall give you hands-on advice on which toolkit elements are potentially most important to you and how you can make best use of the information provided by this toolkit. The idea is to encourage local stakeholders to participate in the process of grid development from an early stage on. This toolkit provides you with the knowledge you need to take part in relevant debates and helps you to gather more information about the project you are specifically interested in.

This introduction to the toolkit will, however, not only state which elements are most important but also tie the elements to one another enhancing the user-friendliness of the toolkit. In the end, this explanation aims to give you as user a detailed suggestion of which elements are best to inform yourself about a specific project, all other important stakeholders involved and how you personally can be heard and your knowledge and ideas be considered by the project developers.

Phase 1: Determination of need

At the stage of the Determination of need the necessity for building grid lines is assessed and defined. If you are particularly interested in the procedure of the Determination of need, it makes sense to inform yourself on the ongoing debates and developments and use the possibilities to get involved in the national and European planning procedures. However, the specific locations of grid lines are not yet defined at this stage and thus the impact of grid development on your region might not yet be clear. Therefore, unless you are not intrinsically interested in the issue as such, getting involved as a local stakeholder at this project stage is not necessary. If TSOs, Regulators and Permitting authorities agree on a grid development project that could affect your area, the policy maker will ensure that you have enough time to inform yourself, voice your concerns and provide input in the following project stages (Project preparation, Spatial planning and Permitting).

Either now or in the stage of Project preparation, TSOs and Permitting authorities may get in touch with Local elected officials to invite them to participate in the early consultation procedures, in order to establish a sustainable and transparent dialogue at an early stage. If you are contacted through a TSO in your role as a Mayor, local council or other local politician you should take the chance to get involved at this early stage, provide input about local particularities that could be important to consider in the further planning process and learn about the possibilities to involve the local interests of your citizens at the upcoming project stages. You should also be aware of your role as a multiplier which means that (in case your area will be affected by the project) you will be an important intermediate between project developers and the affected local citizens you are representing. 

Commonly, leaders of farmers’ and forest owners’ associations are also invited in the debates at this early stage to represent the interests of Land owners. Their participation and ongoing role as intermediary between the future project developers and the associations' members is very important.

Members of possible Local citizens' initiatives (LCIs) within potential project areas that have been established because of past grid development projects might provide helpful input during this and the upcoming project stages. If approached by the decision makers and planners of the upcoming projects, LCIs should be aware of this chance to establish a constructive and cooperative dialogue and try to ignore potential conflicts of past projects while looking ahead. In many countries, changes in legislation have created a better environment for early and ongoing participation of all kinds of stakeholders, enabling TSOs and Public Authorities to involve LCIs and other stakeholders earlier and more constructively; a good reason make use of it and take part in a constructive dialogue.

Phase 2: Project preparation

TSOs are legally bound to implement the grid development projects that have been decided at the stage Determination of need. At the Project preparation stage, they will start involving relevant stakeholders in the process of routing that will last until the final permission is granted at the end of the stage of Permitting.

To find out if your region might be affected by a grid development project in the upcoming years, you can access the homepage of either your national Regulator or the TSO in charge of your country respectively your region. If your village or city is part of the planning area, this does not mean that the new grid line is going to run through there. In fact, only the starting and ending point of the line are defined at this stage and the grid line could run anywhere through the broad planning corridor. The route is, however, continuously narrowed down, considering local landmarks such as natural reserves and settlements.

If you are a land-owner or a citizen living within the planning corridor, the stage of the Determination of need is the best time to inform yourself about the possibilities to get involved in the project at the later stages. When the corridor is narrowed down in the upcoming stages of Project preparation, Spatial planning and Permitting, the planning TSO and Permitting authorities will provide opportunities to inform yourself about the project and to participate and voice potential concerns (e.g. Public space events, Citizens helpline, Project information office, Town hall meeting, Roundtable or Field visit). The Project website as well as reports in the Media will keep you updated about upcoming events, their progress in the planning procedure and any other relevant news about the project.

In case public road shows and/or other public events are held at this stage to start the important dialogue between locals and project developers at this very early point, all invited citizens that are interested in the project should take this chance, bearing in mind that the information provided regarding the location of the project will remain abstract as concrete information is not yet elaborated. Participating in events is, however, a good opportunity to learn more about the processes of grid development, the ideas and reasons behind it and to get to know other stakeholders involved and understand their concerns.

If you are a Local elected official, your participation in the above mentioned events is even more important. Having a good rapport with the project developers is crucial as Local elected officials are often approached by their citizens to ask for information about the project and the consequences the Adjacent communities might have to face. Knowing the facts and being able to place local concerns at an early stage – simply staying in touch with the project developers and holding the constructive dialogue upright – is increasingly important. Accordingly, the same holds true for representatives of farmers' and forest owners' associations who play a comparable role to Local elected officials.

Phase 3: Spatial planning

At the end of the project stage of Spatial planning, a final route corridor with a limited width (e.g. 500 - 1,000 metres in Germany) will be identified which completes the application documents for the final Permitting stage. The most suitable route corridor is usually chosen out of two or three options.

Commonly, print media will tell you if your local area is affected by one of the corridor options. Additional information is provided by the Project website or sometimes even the Social media pages of the project developers.

For receiving the newest information first-hand and to ask your own questions, it is worth taking part in the public events that are commonly organised by TSOs and/or Permitting authorities at this stage all around the planning area. These events are typically announced via relevant local Media and the Project website. If you want to take part in public events like Public space events, Town hall meetings, Roundtables or Field visits, this toolkit provides you with the relevant background to know what to expect of these events and prepare you to make full use of the possibilities to participate in the project. More specific information (such as the Project location/map, the Project timetable, Technical details of the project, Information on project developers and Compensation measures) is commonly accessible through the project homepage or available at the Project information office and should be requested by the local stakeholders if not automatically provided by the project developers.

If you do not have the time to take part in public events but you still have personal questions or concerns, you can make use of the Citizens helpline or Project information offices if those are offered by the project developers. Also the Project website might give you the possibility to get in touch with the project developers.

You should keep in mind that "general" discussions such as the need of a project and the reasons behind are principally important but neither are the project developers singularly responsible for these decisions nor can the latter be withdrawn at this stage. In many countries, the decision on the grid line technology (e.g. underground cable vs. overhead line) has also already been made earlier and is no subject of change through the TSOs.

In order to keep the debates as constructive and cooperative as possible, it is recommendable to concentrate on subjects that can be influenced by the project developers at this stage. If you have profound knowledge of the local area that can influence the decision for one or the other route corridor option, project developers will most likely be glad to hear about it.

Other important debates worth starting at this point are about potential Compensation measures, possibilities for minor adjustments to the routing once a corridor is chosen, ways to reduce the visual impact of the power lines, as well as all other potential impacts the grid development project might have during Construction and Operation stages. When discussing your concerns, you should be aware that other stakeholders might have other interests than you as a citizen of a potentially Adjacent community. It is in the nature of things that for example Environmental NGOs are more concerned about direct effects for the environment than they are concerned about visual impacts for the Adjacent communities and Land owners. Compromises can only be found through constructive dialogues.

It can be helpful to establish a Local citizens' initiative (LCI) to channel the local interests and represent the local stakeholders in the important discussions and dialogues. It is the responsibility of the founders of an LCI to make sure that the aims of their initiative follow the principles for a constructive and cooperative dialogue as mentioned above and are deeply supported by a broad majority of the citizens the LCI seeks to represent. LCIs unconstructively blocking the project through unrealisable and inexplicable postulations with members unwilling to constructively communicate with project developers are harming the whole stakeholder dialogue and can hinder all local stakeholders not supporting such an LCI from establishing a constructive dialogue with the project developers on relevant (as still influenceable) issues. Before establishing, joining or supporting a LCI, you should inform yourself about the LCI's goals and deciding if you feel represented by them or not.

As already pointed out in the description of the previous stages Determination of need and Project preparation, Local elected officials and representatives of farmers' or forest owners' associations are important intermediates and multipliers at this project stage now that local individuals become more and more involved in the project themselves.

Phase 4: Permitting

Having identified the final narrowed route corridor in the Spatial planning stage, the application documents are ready to be handed in by the TSO. Depending on regulations specific to each Member State, Permitting authorities or Regulators will start a consultation or a public application conference before or after the application is handed in. At the end of this stage, the decision makers define a precise route plan of where the newly developed grid line should be built.

The detailed information on the overall communication process stated in the previous paragraph of Phase 3: Spatial planning holds true for the Permitting stage as well. If you want to find out how to get in touch with the project developers, gather information on the project, place your questions, voice your concerns and how to interact with other relevant stakeholders, please read the previous paragraph and stay updated through following local Media reports and the Project website.

If a final public consultation or a public application conference is held, this can be the last chance for you to voice qualified objection to the route plan. Local elected official and representatives of farmers' or forest owners' associations are once again requested to make use of their representative and arbitrating role.  

If you are a Land owner within the future grid line corridor you are probably automatically approached by the TSO to agree on Compensation measures before the Construction stage. You can actively call for such agreements as soon as your land can be identified as part of the Project location.

Phase 5: Construction

As a Land owner and/or part or Local elected official of an Adjacent community, the constructing TSO should inform you early about the further Project timetable, i.e. the precise construction schedule and related activities. Make sure that applicable and decided Compensation measures for inconveniences through the placement of the grid line as well as the construction process are paid in time. It is recommendable to stay in touch with the TSO until agreements are fulfilled satisfyingly. Local elected officials and representatives of farmers' or forest owners' associations are once again very important intermediates in case of any conflicts.

Phase 6: Operation

You may, after all, be interested how the new grid line in your neighbourhood is of use for the European grid network. Websites of TSOs and their European network ENTSO-E as well as websites of Regulators and their European Agency ACER provide interesting information about the usage of each high voltage line and beyond.