Citizens helpline

Channel description: 

A citizens helpline is a phone number people can call to get immediate telephone counselling and information, either regarding a certain grid development project and its implications or regarding grid development projects and their implications in general. They are usually set up by TSOs or Permitting Authorities to create a single point of contact for affected and/or concerned citizens. The helpline should be run by trained staff that is able to handle all usual kinds of potential requests and can react and respond accordingly.

In the context of grid development projects, citizens helpline can be a powerful supplementary communication tool for all locally and directly affected stakeholders that don't have the time or opportunity to address their questions or concerns at information events, townhall meetings, roundtables etc.

Although citizens helplines are more of an outbound communication channel to supply citizens with information and advice they could not retrieve anywhere else, the operators of a citizens helpline should be advised and able to forward requests that can contribute to a dialogue between TSO, Permitting Authority and citizen.

Usual patterns: 

As the name implies, citizen helplines are designed to supply citizens with relevant information if special counselling is needed. The operating staff is usually especially trained for needs and requests from citizens.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What are the major needs of citizens? 

  • How can the operators be trained to meet the needs properly?

Usual patterns: 

Citizen helplines are commonly set up by TSOs and Permitting Authorities to meet their respective information and participation goals.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Is there a need for one (more) citizens helpline?

Potential audience size: 
Usual patterns: 

A Citizens helpline has a relatively high number of potential addressees due to the amount of citizens forming part of the Adjacent communities of a grid development project. 

However, only a very limited number of citizens in affected communities will have questions they need special phone counselling for Operators should be trained in the local specifics of all grid development projects they are in charge of.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Is it possible to fully centralise the service? 

  • How many operators are needed to serve all requests?

Cost/required resources: 
Usual patterns: 

The costs for a Citizens helpline are scalable if it is run centrally. Costs occur for the infrastructure needed to run the helpline (possibly already existent) and for the operators of the helpline and their training. 

Commonly, the helplines are a normal telephone line of the TSO or the Permitting Authority and the operators are employees that are involved in the grid development process anyway and don’t need a special training anymore – which saves costs. If the operators are employees anyway, they can also run the helpline part-time and be appointed for other work while the helpline is not being used. Run like that, the Citizens helpline hardly causes any costs.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Is there already a helpline set up for another project that can be used?

Type of communication: 

A Citizens helpline is typically a communication channel to present additional information for locally affected citizens. However, the phone consultation is part of a dialogue with the citizens and it can be used to start a dialogue on certain topics beyond the phone counselling. 

Content to be communicated: 
Usual patterns: 

All contents that are relevant for the stakeholder dialogue at large can become relevant for the affected citizens that are using the helpline. Therefore, the operators of the helpline should always be up-to-date about current locations, timetables for upcoming events, Technical details, Information on project developers and potential Compensation measures and agreements.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What standard information and "messages" are to be delivered to the callers?

  • How to make sure that all callers get the same answers to their questions?

Project stage at which best employed: 
Usual patterns: 
  • Single citizens typically get involved at a later stage of the grid development process. It is only during the Spatial planning or even later that citizens typically become aware they might be directly affected by a grid development project. 

  • However, certain callers may have general concerns that can occur at any stage, such as general questions about grid development, health, the business of TSOs in general, etc.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which questions are most likely to be asked at the Spatial planning and permitting stages?

  • Which general questions can occur?

Usual patterns: 
  • The Construction stage can change the content of potential requests the Citizens helpline receives. Instead of information regarding the implications of a planned power line, people might now call because they are affected by the construction process. 
Further project-specific questions: 
  • What questions are to be expected during construction stage?