Several layers of legislation exist to protect sensitive habitats. These range from the EU level “Birds Directive” and “Habitats Directive”, which set up the Natura 2000 network of protected sites. To national and regional planning processes, including Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and Environmental Impacts Assessments (EIAs). Although effective, these pieces of legislation cannot replace meaningful cooperation between TSOs and NGOs, who can jointly look for solutions to pre-empt possible negative impacts.
Through RGIs “European Grid Declaration”, 24 inaugural signatories (including TSOs, NGOs and citizen groups) committed to supporting grid expansion to integrate renewables in line with nature conservation objectives. This work laid the foundation for several “on the ground” projects that looked for joint solutions to development and acceptance challenges, with a strong emphasis on nature protection. As part of the RGI lead BESTGRID project, a collaborative approach to examine ways of harnessing route planning to connect up biotope networks in Germany was conducted. Projects like this one seek win-win situations whilst improving the involvement of stakeholders in the planning processes more generally.
As well as at the project level, RGI is also providing feedback on the EUs “Ten Year Network Development Plan” (TYNDP) processes and its relationships to nature legislation and conservation. Both on the policy and project levels of grid development, a full appreciation of the importance of nature protection is required in order to achieve genuine sustainable electricity grid development.