Permitting authorities

Stakeholder role in grid projects: 

In the process of grid development there are different public authorities involved in granting permissions to certain aspects of the project. In the narrow sense, Permitting authorities are the last instance to grant permission to the precisely defined grid line at the end of the permitting stage of the project. These authorities may operate on a regional or national level, depending on the permitting system of the country involved. On a broader level, Permitting authorities are also involved when the general decision for the project need is made and the project as such is granted permission. The authorities permitting this high-level long distance grid development commonly operate on a national level.

Permitting authorities in the narrow sense lead the plan approval procedure of each grid development project. They define the requirements of the plan application documents and the procedure in general. In case of a conflict between stakeholders, e.g. NGOs and TSOs or LCIs and TSOs, Permitting authorities intervene, they contribute to finding both rightful and pragmatic solutions and act as intermediary.

Permitting authorities are responsible for the consideration of all legal requirements related to the implementation of a grid development project. Important legal restrictions relate to emission law, building law and environmental law. At the end of the permitting stage, the responsible authority decides on a certain corridor, having considered all legal requirements and taken all concerns of affected stakeholders and responsible expert authorities into consideration. To be able to do so, they should meet precautions to guarantee a dialogue with all affected stakeholders of all levels at an early stage. Usually, public participation takes place at several stages of the grid development procedure. As Permitting authorities are the final decision-makers, it is part of their responsibility to ensure that the procedure follows the legal requirements for public participation and that all relevant stakeholders had sufficient time and chance to voice their concerns. 



Primary concern with grid projects: 
Usual patterns: 

The major concern of Permitting authorities is the rightful application of all laws and regulations relevant to the entire grid development process.
Important legal restrictions relate to emission law, building law and environmental law.
Permitting authorities, as most stakeholders, have an interest in a preferably quick and blockade-free grid development procedure, characterised by consent through broad (public) participation of all stakeholder groups. In case of planning conflicts, the Permitting authorities act as intermediaries.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which authority/authorities are the responsible Permitting authorities for a certain grid development project? 

  • How can stakeholders be and get involved in the public participation process?   

  • What are the binding laws and regulations of a grid development project?   

  • What procedures can ensure that all relevant laws and regulations are met without delaying the procedure?   

  • What are sources of potential conflicts? How can they be eliminated and what solution can satisfy all stakeholders best?

Topography within stakeholder group: 
Usual patterns: 

Within one Member State, the competences of Permission Authorities are usually standardised and statutorily regulated. 

Differences between Member States occur regarding the distribution of competences and duties among authorities on the regional and national levels.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which permitting authority is in charge of the project?

Individuals within stakeholder organisations/entities: 
Usual patterns: 

There are different contacts for the different stakeholders and individuals.
The relevant contacts for TSOs are mainly the committees in charge of the permission process of a grid development project.
The relevant contacts for affected individuals, NGOs, LCIs etc. relate to the public participation part of a grid development project.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who are the right people to be contacted for a specific need?

Project stage for engagement: 
Usual patterns: 

Permitting authorities on a national level have to make sure that new grids are only developed if needed. In certain countries, they may be the last instance to check that the Determination of need followed all necessary guidelines, laws and they were thoroughly elaborated. This requires a close collaboration of TSOs, academia and experts, Power producers, national and regional authorities and a diligent harmonisation with the needs, developments and capacities of other Member States. Before granting permission and deciding on the need of a certain grid development project, Permitting authorities have to ensure that these consultations and procedures took place and that all other applying laws and regulations were considered.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Are Permitting authorities involved in the development of the national Network Development Plans?

Usual patterns: 

At the stages of Spatial planning and Permitting, once the Determination of need has taken place, Permitting authorities on the local level, TSOs (and Regulators) are obliged to find and approve the optimal corridor until the end of the plan approval procedure. This corridor should – whilst being economic – be the one with the lowest "resistance", meaning that which is least harmful to the environment and landscape, and which, to the extent possible, best responds to the public’s other concerns (e.g. health, safety, visual impact, impact on property, etc.). It will be chosen from a selection of different corridors in broad consent with NGOs, LCIs, local and regional authorities, politicians and any other local groups that are relevant to the issue of potential grid development in the area. An involvement of all relevant (local) stakeholders, among them NGOs and local authorities, is very important.

An early consultation of all stakeholders can be crucial for the success of the entire grid development project and prevent conflicts. It is the responsibility of the Permitting authorities together with the project developers to ensure and foster public participation at the stage of Spatial planning and permitting. The project developers should make every effort to consider and actively deal with corridor and project alternatives suggested by the public – wherever it falls under their responsibility (e.g. the grid technology used or the choice of overhead vs. underground lines might not fall into the responsibility of local authorities or the TSO). Not considering LCIs’ and NGO’s suggestions in a serious manner can quickly lead to blockade tactics, cause delay and reduce public acceptance for the project and grid development in general.

At the same time, asking all relevant stakeholders to assist in choosing the best corridor option is an excellent opportunity for TSOs to call for constructive contributions from stakeholders who might know local peculiarities better than the project developers. It is crucial that the Permitting authorities, as a last instance, ensure that such public consultation takes place.    

All stakeholders that are potentially concerned by a grid development project should make sure to get involved at this stage to make the planners of the project aware of all stakeholders' concerns and needs.


Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who and what locations are potentially affected by a grid development project?   

  • How can potentially concerned stakeholders be constructively involved by the project planners?   

  • How can potentially concerned stakeholders involve themselves and communicate their concerns and needs in a constructive way?

Adequate communication channels for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

It can be worth inviting or even officially involving representatives from Permitting authorities into different events related to stakeholder participation such as Roundtables, Closed-door meetings and Field visits. 

On an active level, representatives from Permitting authorities can interact with other participants of the events and answer questions related to their role and the whole procedure.

On a more passive level, participation in relevant events can help the Permitting authorities to understand the current state of public acceptance; it can give indication to potential conflicts and thereby help the Permitting authorities to prepare their statements.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How can Permitting Authorities be involved in public participation events?
  • What kind of contribution can be expected from Permitting Authorities? Is active involvement needed?
Usual patterns: 

The Website of a Permitting Authority is a very important channel to inform the broad public about the authorities' role, pending planning approval procedures and relevant contacts for all stakeholders.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How can the content of the Permitting Authorities’ website contribute to the authorities’ goals and role in the grid development project?
Adequate communication formats for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

Brochures, Flyers, Leaflets or Fact sheets printed and distributed or included in the authorities’ website can help to raise public awareness for the role of Permitting authorities which results in a deeper involvement and cooperation with other stakeholders and a smoother procedure.

Further project-specific questions: 
Country-specific examples: 

Deciding for the “Energiewende” (energy turnaround) in 2011, the German government – partially and under certain circumstances – shifted permitting competences from the regional to the federal level through a new law. Additionally, all phases of grid development projects require increased stakeholder consultation which is to be ensured by the Permitting authorities. The new law also introduced a procedure for a national ten-year grid development plan which considers all important information to determine the future needs for grids. This plan is to be permitted on a national level. The grid development plan is drafted by all four TSOs and supervised by the German Regulator, Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA). External stakeholders, including the public, can get involved at a very early stage of the procedure.

Relevant Permitting authorities are the National Infrastructure Directorate and local authorities. The National Infrastructure Directorate holds meetings to discuss a project during Spatial planning and decides on the final permission three months after the application documents have been handed in. Local authorities are consulted on the communication strategy and are involved before the final application is handed into NID. The findings of Key Stakeholder Groups, Thematic Groups and Community Forums are considered in their consultation advice.