2022 is a year of multiple, overlapping crises in energy, climate, and biodiversity. In this context, it is particularly reassuring that the ‘Good Practice of the Year’ award saw submissions that propose new coping mechanisms and innovative solutions for public engagement, environmental protection and technical innovation for and connected to grid development.
EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, who handed over the trophies at the award ceremony, emphasises this, saying on the award: “Yet again in 2022, grid promoters have stood up amidst the multi-fold crisis and excelled in the way in which they have taken account of the environment, technology and communities in the design and construction of energy infrastructure projects.”
In the ‘Communication & Engagement’ category:
‘Shaping Our Electricity Future’ by EirGrid
‘Shaping our Electricity Future’ is an extensive public and industry engagement. 4 future scenarios for Ireland’s energy transition were discussed in a 14 week-long process that included ‘Deliberative Dialogue’, engagement with rural communities, local businesses, and young people. The jury chose this practice because they believe that “it is this type of strategic outreach that can help bring citizens on board for a wider energy conversation and reach the underlying objective of fighting climate change.”
EirGrid CEO Mark Foley underlines the importance and far-reaching nature of their practice: “The collaborative consultation process undertaken to support our Shaping Our Electricity Future project is the most extensive we have ever used in Ireland.
The centrepiece of the consultation was the use of a Citizen’s Assembly, to get the true and honest voice of Irish citizens on electricity grid options open to us as the Transmission System Operator. Those citizens, and the many organisations we partnered with, have helped us to bring forward a realistic – and realisable – grid development strategy that will enable Ireland to decarbonise while securing our electricity supply.”
In the ‘Environmental Protection’ category:
‘Bio Transport’ by the Spanish National Scientific Research Council (CSIC) & Red Eléctrica
Bio Transport is a research project demonstrating how highly needed restoration measures under transmission lines can benefit ecosystems by creating new habitats for certain species, while still being cost-effective. The jury found that this practice ticked all the boxes we were looking for: “it is innovative, fully transferable, deals with the highly relevant topic of land-use change, delivers a solid restoration methodology and solution, and follows a collaborative approach.”
“Thank you to the jury and organisers and especially Red Eléctrica. I hope this work will stimulate other companies to complete similar projects as soon as possible and on a larger scale. We need more cooperation to interconnect biodiversity in the EU and this is a great start illustrating what can be achieved. We believe Bio Transport is the best solution to connect fragmented species with natural corridors facilitated by grid infrastructure. Connecting biodiversity using transmission towers is an easy, cheap method which does not require maintenance and protects key species increasingly threatened by climate change.” said Miguel Ferrer, Professor at the Department of Ethology and Biodiversity of CSIC.
“Turning power grids into biodiversity corridors is an opportunity to combat habitat fragmentation and to facilitate the mobility and dispersal of animal species as a way to respond to climate change. If transmission grids throughout Europe could implement our initiative, together we would generate a corridor up to 500,000 kilometers to preserve our fauna. RGI's recognition encourages us to continue using our infrastructure for the benefit of biodiversity and we hope that it also encourages other TSOs to implement this good practice in their assets,” said Antonio Calvo, Director of Sustainability at Redeia, mother company of Red Eléctrica.
In the ‘Technological Innovation & System Integration’ category:
‘SPEED-E’ by Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN) SGPS, S.A.
Portuguese TSO REN looked at how to smartly combine their transmission corridor and Portugal’s transportation corridors and then provided power for electric vehicle charging stations directly supplied from the transmission grid, making it the world’s first solution of this kind and bypassing potential distribution grid constraints. The jury awarded SPEED-E the prize for technological innovation as “it brings a significant contribution to both grid reliability and decarbonisation of the transport sector – furthering and accelerating electrification.”
In this context, João Conceição, Executive Director of REN, said: “This award is extremely important for REN, as it recognizes the company's existing culture of innovation in the face of the demanding challenges of transformations in the energy sector, namely the transition to sustainable mobility”.
HONARARY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT
‘Agri-PV’ by Jack’s Solar Garden
For the first time this year, the jury decided to award a fourth project for its “overarching achievement at the nexus of renewables’ generation, behavioural innovation and agriculture.” Jack’s Solar Garden is a 4-acre, 1.2 MW-DC agrivoltaics project that touches on land use issues, has inspiring engagement with local stakeholders, including art and music festivals under its solar panels, and looks at necessary changes in agricultural activities. In 2021, it became USA’s largest commercial research site for agrivoltaics through its outstanding research partner collaborations.
"It's an honor to be internationally recognized for our work at Jack's Solar Garden where we are modeling what can be done within solar arrays to keep lands active and useful for our society," said Byron Kominek, one of the owners of Jack’s Solar Garden.
RGI would like to extend our sincere congratulations to the winners and thank everyone who submitted the enriching and innovative practices that were part of the competition this year. You can read all about the jury’s favourite practices in our award brochure.
Our thanks also go to the international auditing and advisory company MAZARS for accompanying the evaluation process for the ninth year in a row, to DG Energy and the European Commission who hosted the award ceremony in Brussels and to our experienced jury, for their ongoing commitment to help identify the most outstanding practices in grid development.