Rosemary Steen was appointed Director of External Affairs in July 2015 having previously held the position of Director of Public Affairs since joining EirGrid in 2014. Rosemary has extensive Corporate Affairs, Government Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility experience from the Telecommunications, Utilities and Business Industry Body sectors. She has previously held senior positions in Vodafone, Shell and IBEC.
1) EirGrid is RGI’s newest member. Why did you choose to become a part of the RGI family?
RGI is ground-breaking in its approach. The bringing together of transmission system operators (TSOs) and environmental NGOs by RGI means that across the sector, strong relationships are built and best practices are easily shared. This is in line with our own approach which centres around open dialogue and a participative and collaborative way of working to develop the electricity grid. The work done by Antonella and her team in bringing together these typically disparate groups is something that we at EirGrid want to be a part of. We hope that collaboration with our industry peers through RGI will help in the sharing of experiences and strengthening of relationships across the sector.
2) What is EirGrid doing to build public acceptance for grid infrastructure?
Following a review of our public consultation process, we promised to improve the way we consult with the public and our stakeholders. As a result we recently developed a new six step approach to developing the grid. This process begins with identifying a need for a project and ends with the construction of a project and benefit sharing through distribution of a community fund or proximity payment. At each step, we actively encourage the public and stakeholders to get involved, to influence the decisions we make. This allows us to develop the best possible solution for all. By being inclusive and engaging at the earliest possible opportunity, we hope to build trust and in turn build acceptance for grid infrastructure projects.
3) What specific measures are EirGrid implementing to achieve this acceptance?
Initiatives such as our Community Fund are key to achieving acceptance for the building of necessary grid infrastructure. Our Community Fund recognises the importance of the local communities who support our work. Under this initiative, we create a fund in proportion to the scale of the project. Most recently, we distributed a fund of €360,000 to community organisations in the counties of Westmeath and Meath in Ireland. We are happy to see the local communities in which we work, benefit from this fund.
4) EirGrid’s campaign to foster social acceptance of the grid – Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow proved to be very successful. What do you think contributed to its success?
Following a time of public opposition to some of our planned infrastructure projects, we reflected on the feedback we received from people and communities all around the country. We realised that we needed to change the way in which we engaged with the public. We knew we needed to put people at the heart of everything we do. Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow was the outcome of a lot of positive change in EirGrid. We believe it resonated strongly with the general public because it was such a comprehensive and renewed effort to encourage greater participation in our decision making process.
5) What is EirGrid doing to establish itself as a world leading grid company?
Of course, building infrastructure is vital in securing electricity supply but we also look at innovating through research, development and deployment of smart grid and technology solutions. To become a world leading grid company, we aim to innovate not only when it comes to technology but also in how we engage with those affected by the work we do. Innovation is one of our core values. We do this to drive value for all users of the power system. We are a small island with big targets to meet when it comes to renewable generation and increased energy user participation. A good example such innovative work is our “Delivering a Secure, Sustainable Electricity System (DS3) Programme” which is designed to ensure that we can meet the challenges of operating the power system in a secure manner while also achieving our 2020 renewable electricity targets. Innovation such as this creates the opportunity to do things differently and deliver solutions that have tangible benefits for our customers and the wider community.