We promote transparent, environmentally sensitive grid development
Our newsletter features stories about RGI activities, political discussions about the electricity grids and news from our partners

RGI News

Logo Renewables Grid Initiative
December 2016
Happy Holidays and a very happy New Year from the RGI Secretariat!

2016 has been a tumultuous year in general, but with regard to the work of RGI it was filled with many highlights. We developed a new workstream on (extreme) future scenarios featuring ambitious renewables generation targets and published a brochure detailing community payment approaches across Europe. We organised a much-noted ‘Good Practice of the Year’ award ceremony at the Energy Infrastructure Forum and an exciting ‘Energy Regions in Transition’ learning journey to New York and California. We held the 6th European Grid Conference in Brussels with speeches from EC Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Director-General for Energy Dominique Ristori. And last, but certainly not least, we welcomed new RGI members Amprion and Eirgrid.

A full year that we tried to do justice to in this holiday card, even though it could never reflect everything we did to the extend it would deserve. Thanks to our partners and all regular readers for coming along for the ride. See you in 2017- and look out for the new call for submissions for the 'Good Practice of the Year' award that will be published in January!

In this issue

1. RGI activities

New RGI Board elected – Statnett and Red Eléctrica join the ranks

RGI is very happy to announce that Bente Monica Haaland, Executive Vice President for Strategy and Communications at our Norwegian TSO partner Statnett, and Daniel Pérez Varela, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at RGI’s Spanish TSO member Red Eléctrica de España, have joined our board. They were elected by the RGI Members’ Assembly in November, at which we also discussed our work plan for 2017. We hope that Bente and Daniel will bring additional perspectives and ideas to our work and are looking forward to working closely with them.

In addition, Christoph Bals (Policy Director, Germanwatch), Olivier Feix (Head of Environmental Policy and Permitting, 50Hertz), and Stephan Singer (Senior Advisor Global Energy Policy, CAN International) have been re-elected as board members. Both the newly elected and confirmed board members will serve a two-year term. Edoardo Zanchini (Vicepresident, Legambiente), who has only been elected at the last Member’s Assembly, will serve another year before his seat on the board is due for re-election.

Take a look at our governance webpage to find out more about RGI and our board members.

Visit our updated factsheet corner

We are constantly updating the factsheet corner on our website and are happy to announce that two additional factsheets have recently been uploaded. Visit the page to download an overview of our ‘Need for grids’ work stream and to find out more about the Californian electricity sector and the operation of their grid. We hope that you come back regularly for new and updated factsheets.

2. Discussing the electricity grid

ENTSO-E Annual Conference: Discussing implications of the EC Winter Package for the electricity sector

Last week, ENTSO-E rounded off its year with its Annual Conference in Brussels. Under the banner 'The Energy Union for You', the conference featured distinguished speakers from the political and regulatory sphere, industry and civil society. We were very proud to be one of the six partners that supported the event. Thank you to everyone who stopped by our information stand!

Naturally, the EC’s package “Clean Energy for All Europeans” (known as “Winter Package”), was the hot topic to be discussed, given its release one week before the Conference. There was a great agreement that, in general, the package poses an important building block for the European energy transition. However, it could be seen that interesting discussions start when speakers took a closer look at the details, such as the establishement of Regional Operation Centres (ROCs) or exact market design rules.

The event was wrapped up by ENTSO-E’s Secretary-General Konstantin Staschus who also took the opportunity to say his goodbye since he will be leaving the organisation by the end of this month. RGI wishes him all the best for his future steps and hopes to benefit from his new home base in Berlin, where our office is located as well!

EirGrid Awards Winners of the 360k EirGrid Community Fund

EirGrid hosted an awards event on 16 November for the 37 local organisations awarded funding under EirGrid’s first ever community fund.

EirGrid CEO Fintan Slye was joined by Irish Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resource Sean Kyne TD, Mayor of Mullingar John Shaw and representatives from Community Foundation for Ireland and Westmeath and Meath County Councils to celebrate the work of local community groups.

This is the first fund of its kind to be put in place by EirGrid, the state electricity transmission system operator, and was open to community groups based along the EirGrid’s new 110 kV transmission line running between Mullingar, County Westmeath and Killaskillen in Meath, in the eastern region of Ireland.

The successful winners represented a cross-section of community life in Meath and Westmeath, from music to athletic and sporting organisations, from childcare services to support for senior citizens.

Minister Sean Kyne welcomed the introduction of the fund by EirGrid.  “I would like to congratulate all 37 groups who will receive funding. There is a need to explore ways of building community gain into infrastructure projects. Delivering long-lasting benefits to communities is an important way of achieving public acceptability for a project such as the Mullingar to Kinnegad 110 kV line.”

Fintan Slye, Chief Executive, EirGrid, said: “This evening is about celebrating the many deserving winners of the EirGrid Community Fund. The award winners are the first of their kind in Ireland, and the way they use this support to improve and enhance community activities will set the bar for similar organisations all over the country. I am confident this support will make a real difference to the local communities along the Mullingar to Kinnegad line and enable them to extend their reach locally.

“I would like to thank Minister Kyne and Mayor Shaw for celebrating with us and the Community Foundation for Ireland and Westmeath County Council for their sterling work in assessing the applications and selecting the award winners from so many worthy applicants. I am delighted the funding awarded this evening will have such a positive impact in the communities in which EirGrid works”.

To be eligible to be awarded funding projects had to be located within 2.5 to 3 km of the new line. The boundary was agreed by all parties to the fund: EirGrid, the Community Foundation for Ireland and Westmeath and Meath County Councils.

RSPB takes constructive lead tackling the environmental challenges of offshore renewables

The RSPB is taking a lead in tackling the complex environmental challenges that offshore renewables pose, inputting significant time and resources to try and secure their development in harmony with nature.

Our work in the Firth of Forth, off the East Coast of Scotland has been particularly challenging. Four large offshore wind proposals were granted consent in this region in 2014. However, they represented a huge risk to the many thousands of resident and migratory seabirds that breed and forage in the area including puffins, northern gannets and kittiwakes. Some seabird populations were projected to experience a 25% reduction as a direct consequence of the combined effects of these projects. Faced with impacts on nature of such an enormous scale, RSPB Scotland felt there was no other option but to mount a legal challenge to the Scottish Ministers’ decision to grant consent for these projects. Legal proceedings are ongoing.

In light of these and other challenges we undertook our own research to inform our 2050 Energy Vision. The Vision presents a number of possible ways the UK could meet its climate targets using high levels of renewable energy, whilst at the same time avoiding significant negative impacts on nature. This research further bolsters our strong view that we can achieve this ‘energy revolution’ in a way that is affordable, secure and avoids damaging wildlife, so long as the tried and tested principles of putting renewables in the right places, and rigorously assessing impacts, are followed. For offshore renewables in UK waters we have identified limited, yet significant, potential for further fixed wind and most strikingly a vast potential for deep-water floating renewables including wind. These deep-water technologies present a major opportunity in the longer-term to locate developments in areas further away from sensitive wildlife.

We know how important renewable energy is for the UK as a whole, for both people and nature, and we will continue to support it. We will also continue to fight for wildlife as it faces increasing and more complex pressures. These two things can, and must, go hand in hand in a sustainable society and we are now focusing on how RSPB can continue to lead in this sector and realise the opportunities of new and emerging offshore renewable technologies. 

Model region for smart energy in North-eastern Germany – 50Hertz to lead WindNODE project

On 06 December 2016, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel presented the funding decision for the WindNODE partner project. After two years of preparation, this represents the official start of the model region for smart energy in the Northern and Eastern parts of Germany. In the next four years, some 50 project partners will work together on common solutions for the efficient integration of large quantities of renewable energy in the power grids. WindNODE covers all six eastern German federal states, including Berlin. The region is already a national forerunner for renewable energy: about half of the electricity it consumes is provided by wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.

In addition to project coordinator 50Hertz, such companies as Siemens and Stromnetz Berlin and business developers like Berlin Partner, Energy Saxony and ZukunftsAgentur Brandenburg determine the WindNODE strategy. Participants include energy suppliers, system operators and high-tech specialists, but also companies from the automotive industry, supply and waste disposal, real estate and retail as well as several universities and research institutes from the region. WindNODE will launch the project on 26 January 2017 with a conference in Berlin.

WindNODE is part of the incentive scheme "Smart Energy Showcase - Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition" (SINTEG). The objective is to develop and demonstrate scalable model solutions in large "showcase regions" for an eco-friendly, secure and affordable energy supply with a high share of renewable energy. Pivotal aspects are the smart networking of generation and consumption and the use of innovative grid technology and system operating concepts. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs funds five showcases with a grant of 200 million EUR in total. Together with the additional corporate investments, over 500 million EUR is invested in the digitalisation of the energy industry.

For more information, please visit www.windnode.de

CAN Europe: report on how cutting coal saves lives and statement on Winter Package

Effective emissions limits could save thousands of lives every year, yet more than half of coal power stations in Europe are operating with ‘permission to pollute’ above limits set in EU law. These are the findings of a new report ‘Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud: How cutting coal saves lives’. It was published by RGI partner Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe together with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), WWF and Sandbag. Follow this link to download the full report.

In addition, CAN Europe published a statement on the European Commission’s Winter Package criticising that it is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and disregards the fact that the climate crisis poses an urgent existential threat. Read the full statement here.

'Minimise cable impact on marine ecosystem' by Terna

Italian grid operator Terna developed an innovative methodology for installing marine cables which minimises the environmental impact of submarine grid interconnections and especially protects meadows of the rare sea grass Posidonia oceanica.
  • Assure a better protection of the marine ecosystem, especially of Posidonia oceanica meadows, during the construction of a submarine interconnector
  • Implement a sustainable strategy from planning through to construction
  • Develop a methodology and a portfolio of solutions to achieve this goal
  • Promote a collaborative effort, involving engineers, national governments, local administrations and an environmental protection agency

Terna developed the impact minimisation project for an interconnector linking the energy networks of Malta and Sicily. It is needed in order to improve the Maltese energy supply via a reduction of Sicily’s energy surplus through transmitting power to Malta and therefore contributing to the integration of renewable energy in the electricity system of Malta. The corridor foreseen for this cable crossed an area that is home to “Posidonia oceanica”, a seagrass that is declining (according to the RedList) and provides habitat for many species.
In order to protect the “Posidonia oceanica” as well as other seabed species from harm, Terna refrained from the common drilling technique used for marine cable installation. This technique would have involved bentonite to lubricate and consolidate the sand around the drilling head, which could have potentially suffocated the “Posidonia oceanica” due to the bentonite debris. The innovative solution applied used Xantan gum, a polysaccharide sometimes employed as a food additive that can easily be biodegraded. The portfolio applied further influenced the drilling technique and the drilling path. In addition, residual environmental impacts on meadows directly crossed by the cable have been mitigated with a transplant on a site in Sicily.
After the first year of monitoring, Terna could assess the good condition of the Posidonia oceanica meadows originally affected by the cable (cast iron shell and drilling) as well as the good condition of the growing transplanted rhizomes.
Find out more about this and other good practices in our brochure on the topic and in our databse.

5. Event announcements


INSPIRE-Grid Conference on Public Participation

Be it concerns over negative health impacts, possible consequences for the local economy or non-transparent decision-making procedures: there are many reasons why people question ongoing grid projects. However, industry and politics agree that the modernisation of the current grid infrastructure system is indispensible for the energy transition, system security and the integration of the European internal energy market.

So what can be done to incorporate these concerns and needs of stakeholders better into planning processes? How can different groups be better represented in decision-making procedures? And how can both project developers and researchers contribute to further improvement of existing tools?  

We would like to discuss these questions with you at the upcoming “INSPIRE-Grid Conference on Public Participation: State of the art approaches to stakeholder engagement in electricity infrastructure projects”.

Find out more here.


The Energy Storage Europe

The Energy Storage Europe is an expo and conference event which takes place in Düsseldorf, Germany annually. 2017 will see the 5th the Energy Storage Europe.

Do you want to increase turnover, build up networks, discover new business segments and gain competitive advantage through knowledge? Then come and visit the 6th Energy Storage Europe – the leading energy storage conference and trade fair worldwide.

About us

The Renewables Grid Initiative is a unique collaboration of NGOs and TSOs from across Europe. We promote transparent, environmentally sensitive grid development to enable the further steady growth of renewable energy and the energy transition. RGI members originate from a variety of European countries, consisting of TSOs from Belgium (Elia), France (RTE), Germany (50Hertz, Amprion and TenneT), Ireland (EirGrid), Italy (Terna), the Netherlands (TenneT), Spain (Red Eléctrica de España), Switzerland (Swissgrid) and Norway (Statnett); and NGOs such as WWF International, BirdLife Europe, Fundación Renovables, Germanwatch, Legambiente, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe and Natuur&Milieu. RGI was launched in July 2009.
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