For the first time in its ten-year history, the RGI Grid Awards held a public vote among participating past winners for the ‘10th Anniversary All-Star’ award. The restoration of Posidonia Oceanica, a seagrass species that provides essential functions to the Mediterranean ecosystem and acts as a natural carbon sink, by Redeia – parent company of the Spanish transmission system operator Red Eléctrica – was the voters clear favourite and took home the All-Star trophy. When accepting the award, Eva Pagan, Redeia’s Corporate Director of Sustainability and Research, said: "This project clearly proves that companies such as Redeia can and must generate a positive impact wherever we operate. We are very proud to be acknowledged for this initiative that protects a key ecosystem for the biodiversity of the Mediterranean sea and the fight against climate change."
The awards in the classic categories ‘Technological Innovation & System Integration’, ‘Communication & Engagement’ and ‘Environmental Protection’ were given out next and shone a spotlight on practices striving to improve the relationship between the grid, biodiversity, and communities in 2023. They are:
In the ‘Technological Innovation & System Integration’ category: Increasing the Rate of Change Frequency limit to +/– 1 Hz/s by EirGrid and SONI
By doubling the maximum allowable rate of change of frequency on the grid from 0.5 to 1 Herz per second, system operators EirGrid and SONI are able to lower the level of system inertia required to operate the system securely, reducing the curtailment of renewables in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The jury awarded this practice the prize as it brings a significant contribution to renewables integration into the electricity grid while reducing the need to site and build additional infrastructure.
Welcoming the recognition for the project, the Chief Executive of EirGrid, Mark Foley said, "The Rate of Change of Frequency project was a core element of a wider programme of work focused on enhancing our ability to operate the Ireland and Northern Ireland power system with very high levels of variable non-synchronous renewables, particularly wind generation which has been by far the biggest source of renewable energy on the island to date. EirGrid and SONI currently have the ability to operate the all-island power system with up to 75% of instantaneous electricity generation coming from wind and solar. We are working to be able to increase this operational capability to 95% by 2030. EirGrid and SONI could not have done this on our own – it needed the buy-in and support of a range of stakeholders, particularly the DSOs and generators, and is a great example of how collaboration across the electricity ecosystem can contribute to deep decarbonisation of the power system.”
In the ‘Communication & Engagement’ category: Building resilient communities and healthcare through renewables by EcoSwell
EcoSwell is a Peruvian NGO which implements renewable energy projects with vulnerable communities in a participatory way. They take a bottom-up approach to design bespoke systems and train end users for sustainable long-term use. Recently, EcoSwell installed a solar-PV based uninterrupted power supply system in a central Medical Centre in Talara, Peru, allowing staff to safeguard vaccines. The jury crowned this practice the winner in its category because it shows that it is possible to drive policy change with innovation and commitment while placing communities’ needs at the forefront of decision making.
Highlighting the need for holistic collaboration, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at EcoSwell, Andres Bustamante said, "We are honoured the jury, RGI and the European Commission appreciated our bottom-up approach to projects, where the needs of communities are at the heart of everything. If we are truly interested in a just energy transition where nobody gets left behind, we must always start by listening and engaging those we look to support."
In the ‘Environmental Protection’ category: Ecological corridor management in overhead line corridors by E.ON
E.ON won the environmental category because of their collaborative and successful commitment to implementing ecological vegetation management in their high-voltage corridors over the past decade. The jury found this practice worthy of the award due to its highly transferable nature, successful delivery of ecosystem conservation on a great scale, demonstrated commitment to improvement, and strong collaborative approach with a wide variety of stakeholders across civil society, industry and academia.
Accepting the award, E.ON’s Project Leads for Ecological Corridor Management, Denisa Litvanová and Dennis Hohmann said, “With our Ecological Corridor Management practice, we have the great opportunity to turn our size into a strength and create a lasting impact on biodiversity in our high voltage power line corridors. This approach may shape the way grid operators all over Europe handle vegetation management in future. We are thrilled to have won this year’s award and that we could convey the potential of the ECM practice to the jury.”
RGI warmly congratulates all winners and is sincerely grateful to all those who participated in this year’s competition. We would further like to acknowledge the great work of our jury, who have contributed their time and expertise to this competition, as well as the valuable contribution of the international auditing and advisory company, Mazars, who accompanied the evaluation process for the tenth year in a row.
The call for submissions for the next edition of the RGI Grid Awards will open in Spring 2024. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to stay informed.