Local elected officials

Stakeholder role in grid projects: 

Local elected officials comprise politicians in office at the municipal level, such as mayors, county commissioners or heads of district authorities. In the context of power grid projects they are important stakeholders because they democratically represent their constituencies, i.e. local communities that are affected by a transmission line, and because they head municipal administrations that play a key part in permitting and licensing processes. 

In the grid debate, Local elected officials typically do not make large-scale policy decisions that merit grid development – such as an accelerated expansion of power production from renewable energy sources. Instead, much like local communities in general, mayors and county heads are usually presented initiatives to build power lines by national or regional policy makers, by Regulators or by TSOs. Subsequently, the role of Local elected officials is to find a principled stance on the project by joining the stakeholder dialogue at an early stage based on an objective evaluation of the costs and benefits (if any – this may include Compensation measures) for their constituencies – and beyond. Subsequently, the main task of local politicians is to fulfil their role as multipliers and as messengers to the local public – because of their democratically representative role – for example in terms of passing on and publishing project documentation during the planning and permitting process. Not only Regulators, Permitting authorities and TSOs, but also Adjacent communities (especially Local citizens’ initiatives and Land owners) should be able to count on municipal administrations to fulfil their role as messengers between regional and local stakeholders.

 

 

Primary concern with grid projects: 
Usual patterns: 

The concerns of Local elected officials vary from project to project and even among different municipalities. In some cases, Local elected officials may strongly support a power transmission line on economic grounds, i.e. that high-voltage power boosts energy-intensive industries in urban areas and thus fosters the creation of jobs and economic growth. In other circumstances where the affected municipality is a pure transit area and the project promises fewer immediate economic benefits, mayors and county heads may strongly voice the concerns of local citizens in terms of visual impact of overhead lines, risks to public health by EMF and downside risk of property values. In any case, local public officeholders will rightfully represent the will of their constituencies. However, politicians should nevertheless live up to their responsibility to explain to their constituents the need for a project in a wider context than the immediate particular interests of any one municipality – for example with respect to the sustainability and stability of the national power grid. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What are the local economic conditions in the municipalities affected? Can they directly benefit from the supply of high-voltage power?
  • What other infrastructure projects have municipalities in the project corridor seen in recent years?
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Topography within stakeholder group: 
Further project-specific questions: 
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Individuals within stakeholder organisations/entities: 
Usual patterns: 

Among Local elected officials, several specific positions are particularly important to be reached out to in the context of communication and stakeholder integration efforts. These officials include mayors or the elected heads of the municipal administration as the main representatives, but also the elected heads of committees in city parliaments or county assemblies in charge of infrastructure, environment, energy and economic policy.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who are the mayors of major cities in the pipeline corridors?
  • Who are other key elected officials in the municipal parliaments
Project stage for engagement: 
Usual patterns: 

At the very inception of a grid project when the need for a connection between a starting and an end point is established, Local elected officials can be important multipliers of information. At this stage, large scale involvement of local communities is difficult and hardly feasible due to the lack of concreteness of the project – especially in terms of location. Consequently, it is crucial to identify and address key individuals in potentially affected municipalities that can be messengers to wider audiences. As elected representatives of these communities, mayors and county heads with their administrations are the first multipliers in this regard that come to mind. For example, mayors should be invited to participate in early consultation procedures when national grid scenarios are developed by Regulators and policy makers.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who are the mayors of major cities in the pipeline corridors that can reach large audiences with early project information?
  • What publication outlets of municipal administrations can be used to disseminate early project information?
Usual patterns: 

The involvement of Local elected officials as democratically elected representatives and spokespersons of their municipalities becomes even more important as the project progresses. As different route alternatives and possible corridors are specified, it becomes ever more central to involve municipalities – even though there is still insufficient concreteness as regards the location for large-scale stakeholder integration activities to take place at the local level. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who are the mayors of major cities in the pipeline corridors that can reach large audiences with early project information?    

  • What publication outlets of municipal administrations can be used to disseminate early project information?

Usual patterns: 

During the Spatial planning and Permitting stages, the multiplying role of Local elected officials function is extended to a formal role as provider and distributor of information. Municipalities often receive information coming from Permitting authorities at national or regional level that they are required to pass on and make available to local communities. This role is particularly crucial because members of local communities have to be able to count on their representatives to pass on project-related information like planning documentation (e.g. maps of line corridors, technical specifications etc.).
In addition, Local elected officials can take a leading role in the negotiations for Compensation measures as representatives of the Adjacent communities.
In their capacity as broker between project developers and Adjacent communities they might also be involved in the organisation of local events for information, dialogue and participation with regards to the project.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What are important documents in the legally mandated Spatial planning and permitting procedures that can be made available to local stakeholders via municipal administration? 

  • What can TSOs do to ensure that municipal administrations indeed pass on information and make it available to larger local audiences?

Adequate communication channels for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

In advanced phases of the project, mayors and county heads should be engaged by project sponsors in Closed-door meetings where they are individually briefed on the potential implications of a grid project on their municipality.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who are the mayors of major cities in the pipeline corridors or other important individuals in municipal administrations that should be briefed in a meeting?
Adequate communication formats for participation/cooperation: 
Further project-specific questions: 
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Country-specific examples: 

The involvement of municipalities in the stakeholder integration process for power grid projects is especially important in federalist countries where comparatively more decision making power is concentrated at the municipal level. Here mayors are often more than mere implementers of decisions made at the national level and – by procedure – have to be part of the process.