Determination of need

Project stage description: 

This project stage covers the development of the Europe-wide determination of the need for grids by the (non-binding) Ten Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) as well as the respective national processes for need determination. While the TYNDP and most national plans in the EU are updated on a biannual basis, the national processes of some countries (e.g. Germany) foresee an annual update of the respective national network development plan. ENTSO-E, the European level business association of TSOs, is obliged to consult several stakeholders apart from the TSOs throughout the creation of the TYNDP. The national legislative frameworks differ significantly in terms of the stakeholder consultations they make obligatory but usually different public authorities as well as external stakeholders such as energy producers and NGOs are broadly included in the draft of network development scenarios and development plans.

A major learning from previous grid projects is the widespread tendency that the earlier stakeholders are included in a grid project the more successful are the communication measures targeted at them. Hence, project developers should reach out to as many stakeholders as possible at the “Determination of need” stage. At the same time, it is typically the case, that at this stage of the project not all Adjacent communities of the grid projects can yet be identified and hence a meaningful dialogue is only possible with parts of them. Similarly, the affected stakeholders typically do not show strong interest at this stage which makes it difficult to engage them. This dilemma should be addressed by the project proponents, e.g. TSOs, Permitting authorities and national elected officials, by transparently disclosing relevant project-related information to the public and thereby creating trust and a sense of accountability that can later be used as basis for dialogue with the other stakeholders.

Stakeholders involved in this stage: 
Usual patterns: 

DSOs and power producers have insights into the needs for energy and grids as well as into the energy production. They can hence contribute with essential knowledge to the assessment of the need for grids.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which are the DSOs most affected by potential grid projects?

  • Which are the Power producers most affected by potential grid projects?

Usual patterns: 

Environmental NGOs are typically important multipliers and bear expertise as well with regards to the technicalities of grid projects as with regards to communication. Also, many NGOs have an expertise in energy and electricity systems. They should therefore take an active role in the determination of the Need. NGOs will be much more supporting certain grid development projects if they regard them necessary. Including their knowledge and concerns regarding the bottlenecks of the energy and electricity systems when drafting the development scenarios can significantly prevent NGOs from opposing the projects at a later stage. If they act together with the TSOs and other project proponents from early on, they can help to raise acceptance significantly, especially since some stakeholders, such as Environmental NGOs or local Adjacent communities, see their positions as more legitimate than the positions of the TSOs. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which Environmental NGOs are most important for the grid development projects? 

  • Do the Environmental NGOs have a default position that could be in opposition to the position of the project developers, as well as other NGOs?

Usual patterns: 

Experts can similarly serve as multipliers and opinion leaders who can reach out to the academic community as well as to the broader public if they are supported by Media entities. At the same time, they typically bear useful knowledge for the Determination of need. Both make it necessary for them to be actively involved in the first stage.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which are the specific country's/region's most influential experts in the field of grid development projects?

  • Which are the most important currents of thought within the expert community?

Typical channels to use in communication: 
Usual patterns: 

To ensure the highest level of transparency, the project developers should set up a website or a blog that regularly informs users on the latest developments regarding the grid projects. This helps to convey a transparent image, build trust and make sure all stakeholders can easily access all necessary information to constructively participate in a grid project. These aspects also form a strong basis for constructive dialogue at stages which are typically more contentious.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Does a website, e.g. from the TSO, already exist that explains all relevant information to stakeholders?

  • Where can links to the website/blog be placed?

Usual patterns: 

Especially supra-regional newspapers bear the potential to reach a broader public and thereby shape public opinion and debate. This is particularly powerful at an early project stage since stakeholders typically have not formed strong opinions yet.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which are the most influential supra-regional media entities and the journalists focusing on grid projects?

  • Which media entities and journalists have already focused on grid development projects?

Usual patterns: 

It is advisable to proactively reach out to and bring together high-ranking staff and/or key players of several of the relevant stakeholders groups in a meeting or Roundtable format. These direct interaction methods are a strong tool to exchange insights and positions. The participants can subsequently carry the results into their respective organisations and act as multipliers.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which are the specific stakeholders that should be met face-to-face? 

  • Which stakeholders should be brought together to enter into dialogue?

Essential content communicated: 
Country-specific examples: 

In Germany, TSOs are legally obliged to develop an annual grid development plan for which they need to enter into discussion with all stakeholders or at least ask them for consultation. Any stakeholder, whether they form part of an organisation or not, have the right to comment on the grid development plan. The Regulator who is in charge of approving the grid development plan checks whether the comments have sufficiently been considered in the final draft of the plan.

Some German TSOs already use extensive active communication during the "Determination of need" stage. They attempt to address the affected stakeholders as early as possible, already including local and regional elected politicians as well as regional administration.