Hybrid Event

RGI-IUCN Conference: Optimising Energy and Empowering Nature

On the 7th of December 2021, RGI and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) jointly hosted a high-level hybrid conference entitled "Optimising Energy and Empowering Nature", co-organised by ENTSO-E. The conference aimed to disseminate sound solutions for a renewables-based energy system that contributes to nature conservation while swiftly advancing the energy transition.

With the COP26 having just have wrapped up in Glasgow, we were hearing many urgent calls to scale up and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and electricity grid infrastructure. This will be a vital step forward on our pathway towards decarbonisation. At the same time, infrastructure development must be complemented with actions to protect and enhance nature and healthy ecosystems, if we are to achieve our shared global goals for sustainable development.

Against this background, the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosted the hybrid conference "Optimising Energy and Empowering Nature" on Tuesday, 7 December 2021 from 10 am to 2:45 pm. The event was co-organised by ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators, and was be live-streamed from a studio at their Brussels premises.

The conference aimed to bring nature conservation and energy infrastructure representatives on stage together to discuss and promote sound solutions and best practices for a green energy sector that conserves nature while swiftly advancing towards a carbon-free world.  Opportunities for improvement in the policy framework were addressed specifically.

To stress the importance of sharing best practices across regions and sectors,  the conference was combined with a best practice fair and hosted RGI's award ceremony for the ‘Good Practice of the Year’ award 2021 where the winners of the three categories - Environmental Protection, Communication & Engagement and Technological Innovation & System Integration - were announced.

Keynote speeches were held by:

  • Bruno Oberle | Director General, IUCN
  • Hervé Laffaye | President, ENTSO-E
  • Virginijus Sinkevičius | European Commissioner for the Environment

The three panels of the conference revolved around the following topics:

  • Pathways to the future: Planning energy in harmony with biodiversity standards
  • Optimising planning to achieve net zero and net biodiversity gain
  • Optimising space: Needed actions, roles and responsibilities

Key messages

Full event video

Event impressions



Welcome by RGI, IUCN and ENTSO-E


Keynotes: The importance of optimising energy while empowering nature for a fast and successful energy transition

  • Bruno Oberle | Director General, IUCN
  • Hervé Laffaye | President, ENTSO-E


‘Good Practice of the Year’ award ceremony

Award keynote given by:
Virginijus Sinkevičius | EU Commissioner for the Environment

Antonella Battaglini | CEO, RGI

Jury members to present the award winners:

  • Jean-Michel Glachant | Director, Florence School of Regulation / Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies / European University Institute
  • Rachel Asante-Owusu | Programme Manager, IUCN
  • Susana Batel | Integrated Researcher, Centre for Social Research & Intervention (Cis) / University Institute Lisbon (ISCTE)


Pathways to the future: Planning energy in harmony with biodiversity standards

  • The need to address the double crisis of climate change and biodiversity and understand how to optimise energy infrastructure via innovative technologies and approaches and solid planning
  • Reasons for protecting nature while deploying energy infrastructure
  • How do we ensure that we can develop a culture of planning across energy and nature and implement the needed approaches?
  • Which policy gaps do we still need to close for successful and timely implementation

  • Gerhard Salge | CTO, Hitachi Energy
  • Humberto Delgado Rosa | Director Natural Capital, DG Environment
  • Dolf Gielen | Director, IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre

  • Moderator: Antonella Battaglini | CEO, RGI


Lunch break


Optimising planning to achieve net zero and net biodiversity gain

  • How to scale new approaches, test and mainstream those that work? What type of resources and regulatory settings are required?
  • What are the best technologies and opportunities for nature?
  • What can be done on policy level to roll the best practices out across Europe?

  • Ilse Tant | Chief Community Relations Officer, Elia
  • Eva Philipp | Director Environment & Sustainability Unit BA Wind, Vattenfall
  • Leon Bennun | Chief Scientist, The Biodiversity Consultancy
  • Martin Harper | Regional Director Europe & Central Asia, BirdLife

  • Moderator: Rachel Asante Asante-Owusu | Programme Manager, IUCN


Optimising space: Needed actions, roles and responsibilities

  • How to develop a European approach for site allocations for economic activities to achieve climate neutrality and for nature protection?
  • How can we ensure that the plans for our future energy system are optimised with regard to the space we have available?
  • How can we achieve a truly European approach for site allocation and transfer of best practice within Europe? Which actors need to be involved?
  • How can policies better support integrated spatial and system planning and its implementation?

  • Audrey Zibelman | Vice President, X's Electric Grid Moonshot
  • Nathan Cummins | Great Plains Renewable Energy Strategy Director, The Nature Conservancy
  • Heleen Vollers | Senior Project Lead Nature-Friendly Energy, North Sea Foundation
  • Christoph Bals | Policy Director, Germanwatch
  • Moderator: Gerald Kaendler | Chairman, ENTSO-E System Development Committee


Joint call to action: committing to principles in biodiversity protection & benefit creation / asking policy makers and practitioners to raise the bar


End of conference


Stephanie Bätjer
Director - Communication

Load more
t: +49 30 2332 11017

RGI gratefully acknowledges the EU LIFE funding support:

EU LIFE funding support Logo

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the LIFE Programme. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.