The Renewables Grid Initiative promotes transparent, environmentally sensitive grid development to enable the further steady growth of renewable energy and the energy transition. To reach this target, the initiative brings together non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and transmission system operators (TSOs). For the first time, 50Hertz, Amprion, BirdLife Europe, CAN Europe, EirGrid, Elia, Fundación Renovables, Germanwatch, Legambiente, Natuur en Milieu, Red Eléctrica, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), RTE, Statnett, Swissgrid, TenneT, Terna and WWF International join for a common cause. The grid infrastructure of the participating 8 TSOs in RGI provides the backbone of the existing power supply to some 300 million people in Europe, about half its population.
50Hertz is responsible for the operation, maintenance, planning, and expansion of the 380/220 kilovolt transmission grid throughout the German Federal States of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Hamburg. The transmission system operated by 50Hertz covers 109 000 square kilometres and has a length of around 9 700 kilometres. It ensures the net integration of around 41 percent of all installed wind energy plants in Germany and provides the backbone for the safe and secure power supply to some 19 million people.
Find out about 50Hertz' Energy Transition Outlook for the year 2035 in our interview with 50Hertz Energy Policy Manager Wilhelm Appler.
"Despite the fact that we TSOs are responsible for the electricity system, the massive integration of electricity from renewable sources is a challenge we can not successfully master on our own. We need the support and the cooperation with politicians, authorities, market players and civil society. Europe has chosen to go renewable; our role is to set the proper ground to make it possible. 50Hertz has a massive investment programme to develop urgently the grid according to the needs of the next decades. The cooperation with NGOs in RGI helps us ensuring that we keep the right track and that we meet society’s expectations."
Amprion is a German transmission system operator located in the heart of Europe with interconnectors to five European countries and a growing share of renewable production connected to its system. The Amprion grid supplies power to a population of over 27 million with a total circuit length of 11,000 km from Lower Saxony to the Alps. Our network, with voltage levels of 380,000 and 220,000 volts, is accessible to all players in the electricity market. To integrate the forseeable substantial capacity of renewables in Germany we are developing innovative technical solutions to path the way into the energy world of tomorrow.
"The change of our energy system and the integration of electricity from renewable sources is a significant challenge in regard to planning and operating the grid and in explaining needs for capacity increase to our stakeholders. We would like to share our expertise in determining the need for grid development and developing innovative solutions to integrate the increasing share of renewables. This is our contribution to facilitate the changes needed in the operation and expansion of the grid in order to meet the system demands also in the future. Therefore, Amprion is seeking the dialogue with citizens, society, and political and market players in order to address the challenges of the energy transition. In addition, we believe that strengthening relationships with NGOs and being challenged by them will give us a more diverse view on the future needs of the energy system and thus make our own approaches more robust. For this, RGI is an important platform of relevant stakeholders with the common goal to successfully integrate renewables in our energy system while achieving a higher acceptance in public."
BirdLife Europe is one of the six Regional-division Secretariats that compose BirdLife International. BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. In Brussels, the BirdLife Europe team works mainly on EU Policy issues and aims at making the EU legislation better, taking into account the environment and biodiversity. It also supports the development of the European and Central Asian Partners.
"Climate change and the collapse of biodiversity are at the heart of the great sustainability challenge facing humanity in our time. A massive roll out of renewable energy generation is, along with using less energy, and using it better, an urgent imperative. But we must ensure that our attempts to deal with one side of the environmental crisis do not end up doing harm on the other. The BirdLife Partnership has been working relentlessly to ensure that we bring about the needed energy revolution with minimal harm to wildlife and ecosystems. The RGI is an exciting opportunity to bring together a wide range of organisations committed to a truly sustainable energy system for Europe."
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe's largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 120 member organisations in more than 30 European countries, CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.
"We are now faced with the biggest challenge in the history of human existence: climate change. The majority of greenhouse gases causing these effects, including CO2, are produced in the energy sector, providing us with an opportunity alongside the climate challenge. Renewable energies have the potential to help us achieve our climate goals by decarbonising our power system in a sustainable way. To form the basis of our future energy system with renewables, we need to build and update the grids to bring that clean energy to consumers. We need to tackle climate change by integrating vast amounts of renewable energy sources, while ensuring that the power system and its infrastructure do not have significant impacts on the nature and ecosystems we seek to protect. We must work together with the wider public to transform our energy system. The RGI is the perfect platform to raise awareness and ensure fruitful cooperation between industry and civil society."
Since 2006, EirGrid, a state-owned company has operated and developed the national high voltage electricity grid in Ireland. EirGrid operates the flow of power on the grid and plans for its future. They also bring energy from generation stations to heavy industry and high-tech users. They supply the distribution network operated by ESB Networks that powers every electricity customer in the country.
EirGrid’s task is to deliver a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity – now, and in the future.
Read more about EirGrid joining RGI and their work with regard to public acceptance in our interview with Rosemary Steen.
“We recognise that public acceptance is key when developing the grid. Involvement with organisations such as RGI can help build acceptance for this work. Many of our initiatives are inspired by the work of our European colleagues. We recognise best practice and collaborate with our industry peers on an ongoing basis.”
Elia is the Belgian transmission system operator, transmitting electricity efficiently, reliably and safely from producers to distribution system operators and major industrial users. Elia is also responsible for importing and exporting electricity from and to neighboring countries. Elia owns the entire Belgian very-high-voltage grid (150 to 380 kV) and around 94% (ownership and user rights) of the Belgian high-voltage grid (30 to 70 kV). Elia's grid comprises 5,614 kilometres of overhead lines and 2,765 kilometres of underground cables, and is a key link between electricity markets in northern and southern Europe, as well as between Belgian producers and consumers. As a result of recent investment in interconnection capacity with neighbouring countries, Belgium has become one of the most open and interconnected countries in Europe. Elia has recently taken a 60% stake in 50Hertz Transmission, one of the four German regional transmission system operators.
“Elia’s joining RGI is further evidence of our commitment to the reliable, sustainable and efficient development of the European electricity market. We want to be able to integrate a constantly growing proportion of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Therefore, we need to work hand in hand with all stakeholders in order to gain the necessary public acceptance.”
Created in 2010, Fundación Renovables is a civil society initiative where a relevant number of citizens, some of them well experienced in the energy sector and all of them concerned about the actual energy model and its consequences, work under a common vision: it is urgent to inculcate a new energy vision in all areas of society and the economy, as the actual model is irrational and unsustainable. The public perceives energy as something abundant, relatively cheap, safe and unlimited. Ignoring the social, economical and environmental impacts such as the accelerated progression of the global climate change.
"The “Fundacion Renovables” (FR) has found in RGI the much needed platform to share experiences, information and best practices and for pooling capacities to contribute to the development of an adequate and sustainable European grid infrastructure for renewable energy at all levels as a main element to assure the aim of the Foundation: the strong development and full penetration of renewable energy, to reach zero emissions in the energy sector as soon as possible and 100% electricity generation based on renewables."
Following the motto "Observing, Analysing, Acting", Germanwatch has been actively promoting North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods since 1991. In doing so, Germanwatch focuses on the politics and economics of the North with their worldwide consequences. Germanwatch intends to represent a strong lobby for sustainable development. The NGO endeavours to approach its aims by advocating fair trade relations, responsible financial markets, compliance with human rights, and the prevention of dangerous climate change.
„We will only reach the necessary reduction of CO2 emissions by a massive extension of local renewable energies on the one hand and cross-regional renewable energy resources on the other hand. The expansion of the grid is therefore essential. By following such a strategy – combined with remarkable progress in energy efficiency – we can avoid dangerous climate change and keep global average temperature rise below the science-based danger threshold of 2°C above pre-industrial times. The fast expansion of grid structure and renewable energies allows us to fight jointly against the climate crisis, the economic crisis and the imminent energy crisis."
Legambiente is the most widespread environmental organization in Italy with its headquarters in Rome, 20 regional branches and more than 115,000 members. It is acknowledged as an “association of environmental interest” by the Ministry of the Environment; it represents the UNEP National Committee for Italy and is one of the members of EEB (“European Environmental Bureau”), the Federation of European Environmental Organizations and IUCN - the World Conservation Union.
For more info, read our interview with Edoardo Zanchini conducted after Legambiente joined RGI in 2014.
"We are facing huge changes in the energy and climate sectors, therefore we have to intensify the transition to a low carbon economy by way of a model that is based on energy efficiency and renewables. In order to succeed, we need to reshape the energy system, as we know it, by integrating distributed generation with modern and smart grids. We also need new approaches to power plants and infrastructure to ensure nature and ecosystem protection, local community involvement in decisions as well as raised awareness and information dissemination on the changes that are happening. Joining RGI gives Legambiente the opportunity to meet and discuss these issues with important interlocutors such as European transmission system operators and members of the industry and NGO sectors."
Natuur & Milieu (Nature & Environment) is a Dutch independent environmental organization, committed to creating a healthy environment for all. Their approach is solution-oriented and innovative. They bring together people, business, policy makers, knowledge and ideas to make a difference. They engage in partnerships with green business in order to demonstrate the public and policy makers that sustainable solutions are possible. Their focus is on three fields: Energy, Food and Mobility. Natuur & Milieu is based in the Netherlands but has a strong focus on European policy.
"The consequences of climate change and energy scarcity are distressing. Therefore we need to shift towards a zero-carbon economy and sustainable energy supply as fast as possible. The faster we can make this transition, the larger the environmental, social and economic benefits on the longer term. This transition can only be sustained by expanding and reinforcing our electricity grids. This requires joint forces of TSO’s and NGO’s. The RGI does just that, and has the capacity to become a major catalyst in the energy transition in Europe."
Red Eléctrica is the sole transmission agent and operator (TSO) of the Spanish electricity system. The Company carries out this mission under the principles of neutrality, transparency, and independence, with the aim of providing a secure, efficient electricity service of maximum quality for society as a whole.
As the company responsible for transmission and operation of the Spanish electricity system, Red Eléctrica works, on a daily basis, on the development of grids and in the implementation of efficiency measures in the processes associated to the operation of the system, to help achieve the objectives related to climate change and to reduce our dependence on foreign energy.
We develop the necessary transmission infrastructures and we implement new technical operation solutions, through our Control Centre of Renewable Energies (CECRE), in order to maximize the safe integration of these energies into the electricity system.
Read more about REE joining RGI and current electricity challenges in Spain in our interview with Roberto Arranz Cuesta, Head of the Environmental Department at REE.
"Renewables Grid Initiative is a forum of reference that facilitates the pooling of energy and environmental interests to achieve the targets in the fight against climate change and focused on providing a secure and affordable energy to consumers."
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in the UK, with over a million members. They own and manage over 200 nature reserves covering almost 130,000 hectares - home to 80% of the UK’s rarest or most threatened bird species. In addition to their conservation work on the ground in the UK, they lobby for bird and wildlife-friendly policies in UK, EU and international forums. They are the UK members of the international BirdLife partnership.
"Climate change is rapidly becoming the most serious threat faced by birds and wildlife. We need a renewable energy revolution to keep climate change within safe limits, which in turn demands new investment in electricity transmission, distribution and storage. We want this investment to take place in harmony with the natural world, which means avoiding and minimising the impacts that infrastructure development can cause if poorly planned, designed and managed. By bringing together TSOs and environmental NGOs, the RGI has a vital role to play in safeguarding the natural environment as we decarbonise Europe’s energy system.”
RTE is the French electricity transmission system operator. It is a public service company responsible for operating, maintaining and developing the high and extra high voltage network which represents 100,000 km of lines.
"At the crossroads between northern and southern Europe, the French power system will need to make significantly evolve its role in order to enable Europe to achieve the ambitious targets set for the share of renewable energy sources in the continent's energy mix. The decision to sign up to the RGI reflects RTE's commitment to greater dialogue with all stakeholders, and a sustainable development policy that reconciles grid development with respect for the environment and economic performance."
"Au carrefour du Nord et du Sud de l'Europe, le réseau français devra voir son rôle profondément évoluer pour permettre d'atteindre des objectifs ambitieux de contribution des énergies renouvelables au mix énergétique européen. La participation à la RGI marque la volonté de RTE de développer le dialogue avec toutes les parties prenantes et de mettre en oeuvre une politique de développement durable conciliant développement du réseau, respect de l'environnement et performance économique."
As Norway’s Transmission System Operator (TSO), Statnett is responsible for coordinating the operation of the country’s electric power system and maintaining the correct balance between supply and demand at all times. In doing so Statnett also regulates all electric power exchange with other national grid systems abroad.
Most of the electricity that is being transmitted by Statnett comes from renewable energy sources. 98% of Norwegian power production is based on hydropower, mainly from reservoirs in mountainous regions, making power production both clean and flexible. With almost 50% of the total European hydropower reservoir capacity being in Norway, Statnett is in a unique position to deliver carbon free electricity to Europe and thereby mitigating the effect of increased variability in European power production.
Today, Statnett owns and operates five subsea interconnectors, four between Norway and Demark in addition to the world longest subsea cable between Norway and the Netherlands. Additional cables between Norway and Germany (Nord.Link) and UK (NSN) will be completed over the next ten years.
"Statnett is currently exploring how Norway’s hydropower reserves can help facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. As experts on installation and maintenance of interconnectors, the development of efficient power markets and handling of day-by-day system operation, the company is well positioned for this job. One of the major challenges for infrastructure development is gaining public acceptance. The purpose of building new grids must be clearly communicated and the public must be involved early. We believe RGI is a good platform to create a dialogue between all actors and hopefully we can contribute to European countries meeting their climate obligations."
Swissgrid is Switzerland's national grid company. The Electricity Supply Act (StromVG) of 2007 reorganised the Swiss electricity market: electricity production, trading and sales as well as the transmission of electricity were separated, and Swissgrid was entrusted with the operation of the Swiss high-voltage grid. They employ 250 people from twelve countries in Frick and in Laufenburg. The Swiss electricity grid is extremely important for international electricity trading. For decades it has been a hub for balancing peaks in demand and production. Switzerland is a founding member of the ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity). Swissgrid is a recognised centre of competence in the ENTSO-E. Switzerland’s importance is also apparent from the figures: more than 30 lines connect the Swiss transmission system with other countries. These lines carry 11% of all the electricity that is exchanged between the ENTSO-E countries.
"Because of its geographical location, Switzerland is an important hub for the international trading of electricity. Hydropower and sustainable grid assets have enabled renewable energies to enjoy a long history in Switzerland. The large number of storage power plants and the huge available cross-border transport capacity of the Swiss transmission grid make an important contribution to reliable and sustainable energy supplies in Europe. Swissgrid, an important player in Switzerland's security of supply, will be investing 5-7 billions of Swiss francs in replacing and upgrading the transmission system over the next few years. Supplies from wind and solar energy are a huge challenge for Transmission System Operators, requiring an efficient grid system. Through the Renewables Grid Initiative we are going to pave the way for delivering increasing levels of energy from renewable sources to consumers."
TenneT is Europe's first cross-border Transmission System Operator. Integration of the two transmission grids of the German transpower and TenneT from the Netherlands will allow us to take a leading role in Europe. We will continue developing an effectively functioning EU electricity market, to assure the security of supply and support the integration of renewable energy. The new company has 1700 employees, nine branches and approx. 20,000 kilometres of high-voltage connections, making it one of the top 5 transmission system operators in Europe. The coming period we will focus on further integration of the two TSOs to one company.
“Grid extension is an essential precondition for substantive renewable energy integration from both decentralised and utility scale installations. We as TSO's want to invest in the grids the society asks for, therefore we need public acceptance and a supporting investment model for this. Bringing the necessary transformation to the power sector will require strong coalitions across different sectors in society. That's why TenneT is one of the founding fathers of the RGI which provides the necessary platform for relevant stakeholders to foster the necessary developments to enable 100% grid integration of renewables.”
Terna is the first independent operator in Europe and sixth in the world for kilometers of electricity lines managed and is the owner of the Italian national high voltage electricity transmission grid, with over 63,500 km of HV lines throughout the Italian territory. Terna is responsible for energy transmission and dispatching throughout the entire territory and therefore for the safe management of energy flows in Italy, guaranteeing the balance between electricity supply and demand, 365 days a year and 24 hours a day.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most experienced independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
"Renewable energy electricity mainly from wind, biomass and solar power is abundantly available all over Europe and neighboring regions including North Africa. To make those technologies work efficiently, spread them substantively, allow decentralised and large-scale renewables such as off-shore wind work together smoothly and phase out fossil fuels and nuclear by mid-century require a much more coordinated cross-border management and sophisticated upgrading of the existing old-fashioned grid infrastructure. If we don't get the grids 'right', we won't be able to meet ambitious climate targets such as staying below 2 degree requiring a zero-emitting Europe by mid-century."