Adjacent communities

Stakeholder role in grid projects: 

In the context of grid development projects, Adjacent communities comprise the citizens at large who live in the municipalities that are directly adjacent to the power grid project under development. Owners of project land do count towards the Adjacent communities as well; however there is a separate part in this toolkit for Land owners. 

Citizens of Adjacent communities are immediately affected by the project in their daily lives and environment. In many cases of power transmission projects, they tend to bear much of the immediate costs and little of the ultimate benefits that are associated with a grid link. The benefits (e.g. a higher share of renewables in a country’s power mix) tend to be rather abstract and global – while the costs (e.g. visual impact of overhead lines) tend to be very concrete and local. Given this evident imbalance between costs and benefits at the local level, the concerns of Adjacent communities need to be especially considered by other stakeholders, particularly by project developers like TSOs. Moreover, all stakeholders have to pay special attention towards informing local communities over the project cycle, offering opportunities for dialogue and maximising room to manoeuvre for joint decision making at the local level where individual people are affected. This starts with recurring explanations of the process steps themselves against the backdrop of national legislation that governs the planning and permitting process.

In turn, the role of Adjacent communities can be to participate in the local implementation of a power grid project – e.g. in terms of local conditions impacting the choice of technology and routing. Their part in a successful multi-stakeholder dialogue is to contribute to the project’s implementation with high public acceptance by becoming constructively involved in the local configuration of a grid project. In this regard, local citizens are a significant source of knowledge and expertise for TSOs and other project developers – that should be tapped early on in the process as soon as route alternatives within the project corridor are discussed so that micro-planning of power lines – especially the definition of routes and the positioning of pylons for overhead lines – are jointly identified with members of the local communities.

Primary concern with grid projects: 
Usual patterns: 

The primary concerns of Adjacent communities typically circle around four topics: (1) health concerns for families in the vicinity of high-voltage power lines due to assumed health impacts of Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs), (2) environmental and social concerns including their fear of the countryside’s disfigurement and the negative visual impact of overhead transmission lines, (3) resulting commercial concerns regarding decreasing real-estate prices in neighbourhoods and a loss of touristic value in the community and 
(4) occasional opposition to power lines due to local opposition to the connection of a new power generation source, e.g. wind farms, coal power stations or nuclear power plants. Opposing the power line in these cases can be seen as a strategy to oppose the new power plant.
 
Regarding the different concerns of Adjacent communities specifically, the following should be done – chiefly by TSOs – in order to individually address local concerns:

•    Health concerns regarding EMF: 
−    Paying for analyses by external experts on the specific EMF impact in communities with scenarios for grid extension. Experts should be freely chosen by members of local communities or – upon request – from a set of experts proposed by other stakeholders (e.g. TSOs).
−    Using “Infomobiles” to take citizens from local communities on field trips to a high-voltage power line (e.g. in cooperation with a local university/college) to let them measure the actual EMF below the line once it has been built or below another comparable power line in the surroundings. 

•    Environmental protection and landscape preservation: making maximum use of legal Compensation measures, i.e. environmental recreation measures, compensation for Land owners and general community-based reparations.

•    If the opposition against the grid line occurs jointly with a campaign against the connection of a new generation source, the TSO should work closely together with the respective Power producers in order to jointly approach the Adjacent communities, engage in a constructive dialogue and seek out compromises.

In general, Adjacent communities sometimes voice their frustration in terms of a broad feeling of “not-being-listened-to” boiling down to a perceived overall lack of opportunities to voice opinions. Sometimes there is also opposition when people feel ‘their’ local environment is being used/ spoiled for the benefit of others, without clear benefits for the region. TSOs should hence take concerns seriously and proactively address them. 

To address these concerns, members of local communities often present alternative solutions that should be considered in the planning processes on the side of the TSO wherever possible and practically reasonable. Also Compensation measurements and mitigation measures can play an important role in finding compromises and lessen the feeling that the region is “used” for the benefit of others.

 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What are the top concerns that are being voiced by Adjacent communities in the context of an existing grid project? How can it be addressed in a well-structured way?

  • Is a negative effect on real estate prices expectable for Adjacent communities? How significant is it likely to be?

  • What are the legal options for direct compensation of Adjacent communities (not Land owners) that are available? How can they be employed best to address the specific concerns of local communities?

  • Are there any alternative proposals put forward by local communities that can be included in the (spatial and technical) planning in order to systematically consider and address them?

  • How can members of Adjacent communities be actively called upon to contribute constructive ideas on how to raise public acceptance? Who has to be addressed? What should local affected citizens be asked to provide as proposals?

Topography within stakeholder group: 
Individuals within stakeholder organisations/entities: 
Project stage for engagement: 
Usual patterns: 

In many cases, Adjacent communities learn for the first time during the Project preparation phase, and via official documentation, that they might fall in a corridor that the TSO is investigating as a route option. Typically, citizens begin to share concerns that their communities will be affected at this stage. Early, pro-active engagement by TSOs, public authorities and policy makers alike becomes more important and also easier once the project starts to concretise; now it is increasingly clear what corridor and route alternatives will be debated and hence which communities might be affected. The Project preparation phase (i.e. the selection of generally possible corridor options for “lines on the map”) tends to be the crucial stage for involving all stakeholders: It is the timing when "true participation" (in the sense of joint decision making) is essential for project success because routing decisions can be jointly prepared with local stakeholders in the ellipse, to avoid presenting them a fait accompli. Moreover, TSOs and Permitting authorities need to increase their efforts to explain the upcoming Spatial planning and permitting process. Above all, TSOs need to communicate to local communities what will be discussed and decided when and where and by whom – in order to create realistic expectations. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What are the different routings debated at this stage? 

  • Does debate in local Media already take place?    

  • Can potential predecessors to LCIs be observed anywhere along potential routings?

Usual patterns: 

Local communities have to be engaged by the TSO during the construction of the grid. Specifically, they should communicate as early as possible the precise construction schedule and activities that are to take place in the community – as well as the repercussions that construction will have on public life. Where possible, activities and schedules should be elaborated together with the communities, taking into account local events etc. that could interfere with the construction.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What is the best medium to reach Adjacent communities in order to inform them about upcoming construction activities?

  • How can construction impact on public life (e.g. regarding traffic) be minimised?

  • Are there any local events in the scheduled construction time that should be taken into account?

Adequate communication channels for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

Town hall meetings, public information events or open days are often the channels of choice for TSOs to inform affected local communities about a grid project under development. They bear the advantage of being able to address the entire audience of the people affected by the project. It is thus important to invite all citizens of the Adjacent communities (i.e. entire towns/villages) to such events for example via ads in local newspapers, making clear that every member of the Adjacent community is welcome. It is furthermore paramount to present comprehensive and new information which makes it worthwhile for already informed people to make the effort of participating. 

Organisers of the event should ideally include small-group workshops and break-out sessions into such meetings or any kind of interruption of large-audience formats, in order to give people the chance to speak out and voice their opinions in smaller groups. 

It is moreover important to have procedures in place to collect opinions/feedback from participants in written form with “receipts” given in return. Finally, it is crucial to schedule such events in the evening (after close of business) or on the weekend. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Given the local culture and habits, what is the best timing during the week for organising such Public space events in order to reach the largest audience possible?

  • Where and how should the event be advertised in local Media, e.g. via local newspapers or radio stations?

Usual patterns: 

Joint field trips of TSOs, local communities and regional universities to a high-voltage power line have, in some European countries, been successfully organised in order to address specific concerns that local stakeholders commonly have: (1) health concerns for families in the vicinity of high-voltage power lines due to anxiety about hazardous impacts of EMF and (2) environmental and social concerns including the countryside’s disfigurement and negative visual impact of overhead transmission lines. 

The invitation to the field visit should be kept open to the general public in the affected communities.

 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Given the local culture and habits, what is the best timing during the week for organising such Public space events in order to reach the largest audience possible?

  • Where and how should the event be advertised in local Media, e.g. via local newspapers or radio stations?

Usual patterns: 

A Project information office has the potential to reach entire communities that are affected by a power line. It is – however – by definition merely an offer supplied and an opportunity provided by TSOs or other sponsors that local stakeholder have to actively use. It should be located in a town or village that can be reached easily by car and, if possible, by public transportation. Opening hours should be past close-of-business at least one day per week.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Where would a suitable place for a project information office be?

  • What are appropriate opening hours?

Adequate communication formats for participation/cooperation: