Newsletter of the EU-funded project BESTGRID - testing better practices

Testing better practices

Welcome to our first BESTGRID newsletter edition – testing better practices!

Nine months ago, the joint journey of five transmission system operators (50Hertz, Elia, National Grid, TenneT and Terna), two environmental groups (BirdLife Europe and Germanwatch), one research institute (IIASA) and the multi-stakeholder initiative Renewables-Grid-Initiative (RGI), started. With the goal of finding better practices concerning the planning and permitting of electricity grids, pilot projects take the centre stage of BESTGRID - testing better practices. The project is a continuation of RGI’s work on the European Grid Declaration: for the first time, partners join forces now on the ground to jointly implement the principles set out in the document.

One third of the project time is almost over – we already gained interesting experiences that we would like to share with you. We hope you enjoy our first update on the project’s progress. Please do not hesitate to contact us anytime if you have questions about the project or its partners, comments or suggestions under

1. BESTGRID Activities

NGOs and grid operators learning about better practice in grid development
Modernising and expanding the European electricity grid is an imperative building block to enable the transition of Europe’s energy system from fossil fuel dependence towards renewable energy. However, planning and realising grid development projects is often difficult and time consuming due to local opposition, complex permitting procedures and the challenges of minimising impacts on nature and host communities.

Launched in April 2013, BESTGRID is made up of four pilot projects located in Belgium, Germany and the UK. During the project, TSOs and NGOs work together to learn how to improve stakeholder engagement procedures for grid development processes. Objectives of the project are to enhance transparency and public participation, to speed up permitting procedures by proactively addressing or even surpassing environmental protection standards, and to encourage the implementation of constructive public engagement in permitting procedures for European energy infrastructure “projects of common interest.” 

Three of the pilot projects will have a stronger focus on designing and testing new activities, while the fourth one will focus on evaluating activities that have already been developed and implemented and derive additional insights from this. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) will lend support by evaluating the activities from a scientific perspective. 

Where can you find more information?

The BESTGRID project is being accompanied by a multitude of dissemination activities in order to keep you informed about project progress and findings. During the last months, our project website went online ( and a project flyer has been published. Both will give you an overview of different project aspects. On our website, you can find regular news and all public documents that the consortium produces. 

In addition, first publications of the project have been released, including three background documents on good practices. The first one, developed by the research institute IIASA, is based on existing practices and experience. The second one has been compiled by the NGO Germanwatch and deals with transparency and participation. The third one from the NGO BirdLife Europe gives background information on good practice in consideration of the environment and engagement with environmental stakeholders.  

2. Find out more about our pilot projects in Germany and Belgium

BESTGRID is cooperating with several grid development projects. Each of these ventures is being planned and realised by one of the TSOs participating in BESTGRID and is referred to as a BESTGRID pilot project. The operators in charge of a pilot project are 50Hertz (Germany), Elia (Belgium), TenneT (Germany) and National Grid (UK - consideration of several cases). While the National Grid project will focus on evaluating activities that have already been developed and implemented, the other three pilots will concentrate on designing and testing new activities. To achieve the best possible outcome of the new approaches, the NGOs will contribute advice during project planning as well as throughout the implementation phase. 

TenneT: SuedLink – an ‘Electricity Bridge’ from Wilster to Grafenrheinfeld

Approximately 800 kilometres in length, the SuedLink project is the largest infrastructure project for the energy transition in Germany. With a transmission capacity of four Gigawatt, the power transmission line will create the urgently needed link between renewable energy generated in the north of Germany and consumer centres in the south.

50Hertz: 380-kV-Overhead Line Bertikow-Pasewalk

The 380kV overhead line between Bertikow and Pasewalk is to increase the power transmission capacity in the northeastern part of the 50Hertz control area, thus guaranteeing the security of supply for this region. In light of the demands that the energy transition brings and the challenges that come with it, 50Hertz will replace an existing 220kv line with a 380kv line.

Elia: a project in the Walloon region 

Elia’s pilot project involves a power line in the Walloon region. Elia will be working closely with the Belgian NGO Inter-Environnement Wallonie (IEW ) on its pilot project. IEW is an association of 150 environmental groups in the Walloon region. Currently, Elia is undertaking a stakeholder mapping and developing further communication tools, such as the project website. During the coming months, Elia and IEW will jointly meet all the local authorities that could be affected by the proposed project. At the end of this month, the further planning of all events related to the project will be fixed. 

3. Get to know our partners

In this issue: the role of BirdLife Europe in BESTGRID
BirdLife’s role in BESTGRID is to advise the TSOs on how best to engage with environmental procedures and stakeholders, and how to minimise impacts on nature in the pilot projects. BirdLife will also produce a handbook on ecologically sensitive grid development, based on scientific evidence and experience in the field. This will be developed with the BESTGRID consortium’s input, and will be ‘road-tested’ and developed further in training events for nature conservation NGOs.

BirdLife International is the world’s largest coalition of wildlife conservation organisations. Partner organisations are located in every EU member state and boast over 2 million members across Europe. Ivan Scrase, Senior Climate Change Policy Officer with BirdLife Europe’s UK partner organisation, said:  “People sometimes ask me what nature conservation has to do with transmission grid development. In short, there are two answers: climate change and bird collision risks.”

4. Further reading

Wind farms: new report provides latest know-how on reducing environmental impact
Produced by BirdLife on behalf of the Bern Convention and endorsed by the Convention’s Standing Committee on 6 December, this report presents the most up-to-date scientific information to reduce wind farms’ impacts on the environment.

5. Event announcements
First BESTGRID workshop hosted by TenneT

In May this year, the first public BESTGRID will take place in Germany. More information will follow soon on our website and in the next issue of this newsletter! 

Environment and acceptance of grid development and storage

Event in German
The 'Energiewende' and the adjustment of necessary grid infrastructure and energy storage should be achieved in harmony with nature and with the acceptance of citizens. During the event, experts will present state of the art research and identify present gaps. 

Energy Storage – International Conference and Exhibition for the Storage of Renewable Energies

Which applications of energy storage are most needed for the transformation of Europe’s electric power system? What are the benefits and costs for different energy storage solutions and how can they be practically implemented? What kind of political support is necessary? These questions will be discussed and answered in Düsseldorf (Germany), 25 to 27 March 2014. 

About Bestgrid
With nine partners, comprised of European non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and transmission system operators (TSOs) and a research institute, the EU-funded BESTGRID project works towards modernising and expanding the current European electricity grid for the integration of a growing share of electricity from renewable sources. Launched in April 2013, BESTGRID is made up of four pilot projects located in Belgium, Germany and the UK. During the project, TSOs and NGOs work together to improve local and public acceptance for grid development processes. 

Partners: 50Hertz, BirdLife Europe, Elia, Germanwatch, IIASA, National Grid, TenneT, Terna 
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