National/Regional policy makers

Stakeholder role in grid projects: 

National/Regional policy makers have a very distinct role in grid projects as these projects are often driven by policy decisions made by relevant officials. These policy decisions include creating incentives for building grid lines, e.g. through direct subsidies or by promoting the expansion of renewable energy production. Policy makers are often also directly involved in the final approval of multiannual energy or grid development plans, as well as of specific priority projects, based on assessment documents such as Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) or Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). 

 Policy makers may therefore be held accountable for the policy decisions that result in the implementation of new grid projects, and may participate in justifying a project and explaining the reasons behind the decision to build new grids. Indeed, they should play an active role in raising acceptance for projects which they have supported via policy or grid plans.

On a general level, policy makers typically aim to represent the best interests of the general public and, in the case of elected public officials, their constituents. In order to reach an agreement between the public and the project developers, such as the TSOs, policy makers engage in a dialogue with the TSOs to ensure the greatest public benefit of the project on a national and/or regional level. They may also set up public consultations in order to allow for public feedback on a project.

Primary concern with grid projects: 
Usual patterns: 

Policy makers are broadly concerned with implementing policy that best corresponds to their political vision; in driving growth, economic well-being and competitiveness in their country and, in the case of elected officials, of representing the interests of their constituents. Ultimately, elected officials are also concerned about their constituencies’ positions and opinions since they typically have an interest in being re-elected. Indeed, elected officials as well as election candidates may tend to liaise particularly with Local citizens’ initiatives and other constituent groups around election time.

Regarding grid projects specifically, policy makers have to reflect on the potential needs of a country or region for new grid infrastructure, while keeping in mind the wishes and concerns of the people who may be directly affected by a project.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Is there a specific benefit for the region/country in constructing new grid infrastructure? 

  • How can the negative aspects of the project be dealt with in a fair way?

Topography within stakeholder group: 
Usual patterns: 

The organisation of policy makers varies in the different countries. However, most countries have Ministries or departments responsible for issues relevant to grid development, such as energy or the environment. National parliaments are also sometimes involved with approving grid plans or projects. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Is the organisation transparent/effective enough for public concerns to be represented by policy makers? 

  • How can discrepancies between different public entities represented through policy makers be dealt with, within a governmental institution?

Individuals within stakeholder organisations/entities: 
Usual patterns: 

Depending on the country, different people may be primarily relevant for grid infrastructure projects. These are likely to be officials in Ministries dealing with energy planning, environmental, infrastructure and economic issues.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which specific regional or National policy makers work on policy related to grid infrastructure development?

Project stage for engagement: 
Usual patterns: 

Policy makers help determine overall need for infrastructure development in, for example, developing or approving multi-year energy plans in cooperation with other stakeholders.

With respect to a specific project, in some countries national authorities are responsible for the Determination of need (e.g. Germany), while in other countries the TSOs identify the need for grid infrastructure and then attain authorisation from national authorities (e.g. Italy).

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Are national or regional policy makers directly involved in the Determination of need in the country of a specific grid project?

Usual patterns: 

Policy makers are typically involved in the early stages of a project, though their specific role in approving projects or Project locations depends on the procedure in a particular country.

Policy makers may also participate in communicating about a given project and explaining how it fits into a country’s overall energy plan. Indeed, given their responsibility for policy decisions which help drive grid development, policy makers have an important role to play in justifying and explaining these decisions to the public. In some countries, policy makers may organise public consultations with regards to specific projects.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What is the role of national or regional policy makers in the MS concerned by a particular grid project? 

  • Which assessment documents are mandatory before a decision is made?

Adequate communication channels for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

National and regional policy makers are key participants in – or even organisers of – high-level meetings and Roundtables to discuss national energy and grid plans, to select priority projects and to collect various stakeholders’ views. Meetings can deal with high-level plans or with approval of specific projects. These meetings allow for gathering of information, discussion of policy and exchange of views. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Do policy makers plan to organise Roundtables or meetings with multiple stakeholders?

Adequate communication formats for participation/cooperation: 
Further project-specific questions: 
Country-specific examples: 

Grid development plans are determined on a federal level every 5 years, and include an SEA which needs to be approved by the Minister for Energy. However, the TSO decides whether a specific grid project is required, which is later reviewed by the regional government.

In Italy, the TSO drafts an annual Electricity Grid Development Plan, which is approved by the Ministry of Economic Development. Further, national authorities (the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage) are responsible for the evaluation of SEAs undertaken on a regional level by a collaboration of the TSO and the regional SEA group. If these assessment procedures are validated, the information is distributed to regional authorities and other stakeholder groups. 

During the Spatial planning and Permitting stages, a regional prefect plays a major role in coordinating the dialogue between different stakeholders, and the final route corridor needs the approval of either the prefect or the Minister of Energy.

A prominent example of the government’s role in shaping grid development via energy policy can be found in Germany’s recent energy transition (Energiewende), which has strongly impacted the need for new power lines. The energy transition was accompanied by a review of the grid development and permitting process, which now increasingly occurs at a national rather than regional level.

The Dutch TSO drafts two-year national grid development plan, approved by the Regulator. Based on this plan, the Ministry of Economic Affairs develops a strategic “Framework Plan of Electricity Supply” (SEV) that highlights the spatial allocation of new projects, and the national parliament then makes a final decision on included projects and selected corridors.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs also plays a prominent role in approving projects not included in the SEV, organising meetings with regional and local authorities, holding public consultations, and helps makes decisions on Spatial planning and route corridors. 

In Norway historically the TSO itself has developed grid infrastructure plans every two years, without much engagement of other stakeholders except for grid owners. However, changes have been proposed for earlier involvement of other stakeholders, and NGO feedback, for example, was included in the last grid development plan. On a national level, the Ministry of Energy plays an important role in the process, signing off on the TSO’s project evaluation and making a final permitting decision for a project.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change decides whether to grant consent for a project after reviewing the route selection, EIA and other project details.