TSOs

Stakeholder role in grid projects: 

Transmission system operators are companies that own and operate electrical power transmission grid lines, i.e. high-voltage main power lines, and are responsible for transporting electrical energy. They are also typically the main owners of grid development projects since they are the primary entity in charge of planning and constructing new grid lines.

TSOs are usually private sector companies in which governments may hold a significant share. In the EU, the grid covered by one TSO comprises – with the exception of Germany – the entire area of a Member State. Due to the fact that TSOs do not face competition in the areas they cover, i.e. they hold so-called “natural monopolies”, they are heavily regulated by the respective government authorities, including Regulators and Permitting authorities. Hence, their leeway in planning and constructing new grid lines is limited by the boundaries set by these entities.

Primary concern with grid projects: 
Usual patterns: 

Since TSOs are private sector companies, they have an interest in making grid lines an economically profitable undertaking. Their main revenue stems from the grid transmission charges that they receive for transmitting electrical energy.

Several considerations can drive the need for grid development projects, and are thus of interest to TSOs. These can include existing bottlenecks in the system, demand management and integration of renewable energy production. Indeed, main producers of renewable energy are often located far away from main consumers, and grids increasingly have the role of balancing out production from different sources.

For TSOs, tapping into the potential offered by renewables integration, resolution of bottlenecks and other drivers represents a strong opportunity for grid development. At the same time, the regulations they typically face impose strict restraints on them. Due to these restraints, TSOs usually cannot choose freely where and with which design to build grid lines and profit margins typically do not exceed a certain level. For example, the German TSOs receive a legally fixed profit margin on their investments in grid development projects. This makes TSOs heavily dependent on political decisions, given that any change of legislation can have strong effects on their business case.

In addition, with regards to concrete grid projects, different types of opposition can delay these projects, tie up resources and impose costs on the TSOs. Delays can also pose risks to project security and overall system stability. TSOs therefore have an interest in reducing and mitigating opposition and finding a solution that is acceptable for all stakeholders. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What is the leeway the specific TSO has in terms of increasing the profitability of a given grid project?

  • Can the specific TSO pass through increased costs to the respective energy producers or consumers? 

  • Are their additional concerns of the specific TSO with regards to a given grid project? 

  • How strongly is the TSO business regulated in a given country, especially with regards to the profitability of their operations? 

  • Can the specific TSO build on a positive reputation and trust with other stakeholders?

Topography within stakeholder group: 
Usual patterns: 

Typically, only one TSO is responsible for a grid project and hence forms part of the respective stakeholder group. However, some projects, especially Projects of Common Interest (PCIs), cross borders and are therefore planned, constructed and operated by more than one TSO. TSOs have also formed supranational associations, for example, ENTSO-E on the European level. These associations typically represent the TSO interests in political forums.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Is more than one TSO involved in the development of a specific grid project? 

  • Can the expertise of a supranational association such as ENTSO-E be tapped for a specific grid project?

Individuals within stakeholder organisations/entities: 
Usual patterns: 

Two groups of individuals within TSOs are typically most important with regards to grid projects. First, the high-level management of the TSO is typically responsible for deciding on the main aspects of grid projects. Second, most TSOs have departments or at least teams working on communication activities of the TSO. The latter group is typically also the one that other stakeholders interact with during the process of grid development. Their task is not only to communicate the plans and decisions of the management to the other stakeholders but also to collect input (e.g. concerns, doubts and ideas) from other stakeholders, , and convey them to the management.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who are the decision-making persons at a specific TSO for a given grid project? 

  • Who are the persons holding the primary responsibility for the communication of a specific TSO for a given grid project?

Project stage for engagement: 
Usual patterns: 

As the main project developers, TSOs are involved in all stages of grid projects with a continuously important role.

Further project-specific questions: 
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Adequate communication channels for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

As main project developers, TSOs are also the most important communicators in grid projects. In their communication campaigns they can make use of all available communication measures.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which channels have been used by the specific TSO in previous projects? 

  • For which channels does the specific TSO have the resources for their deployment?

Adequate communication formats for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

As for the channels, TSOs can make use of all communication formats in their communication campaigns.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which formats have been used by the specific TSO in previous projects? 

  • For which formats does the specific TSO have the resources for their deployment?

Country-specific examples: 

In Germany, TSOs receive a fixed profit margin on their investments. Therefore, TSOs cannot benefit or lose from any changes in design or placement of grid projects, which gives them some flexibility to adjust to other stakeholders’ demands within the narrow boundaries of the relevant regulations. At the same time, the power to really change placement and design of grid projects lies with permitting and regulating authorities, including political decision-makers on a supra-regional level.