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REN, REE and ELIA in good environmental practices event

REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais, of Portugal, and its Spanish and Belgian counterparts, REE - Red Elétrica de España and ELIA, in partnership with the North Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR-N), of Portugal, the Belgian Federal Authority for Health and Environment and the Spanish Ministry of Industry, are organizing a conference on "Grid Development Plan Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA): Towards Sustainability" to be held on 10 October, from 11 am to 1 pm.

This event will be held at the offices of REPER (Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union) in Brussels, as part of the "Open Days of Regions 2012". It aims to present some of the best environmental practices in planning and designing a very high-voltage electricity transport grid.

The various entities represented in this action will have the opportunity to share strategies, practical guidance and specific experience with the aim of minimizing the environmental impact arising from their power infrastructure (lines and substations). They will also be able to identify best procedures in cooperation with external entities, including regional and local communities. Furthermore, it will also be shared the point of view and experience of Environmental Authorities.

The presentations at this conference will be based on the following projects:

Project 1 -BE - As the Belgian Transmission System Operator (TSO), ELIA has to establish a network development plan covering a ten-year period, updated every three years. In 2011 the plan was subjected for the first time to an SEA. Based on the directive's (2001/42/EC) objective of integrating environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans with a view to promoting sustainability, the assessment endeavoured to cover socio-economic aspects as well as the typical environmental impacts. The scope, level of details and contents of the SEA were established in a register. The environmental report was prepared in accordance with this. Subsequently, this report and the draft plan were submitted for consultation (60 days) to the authorities and the public. The process was finalized by a declaration that summarizes how environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan and how the environmental report, the opinions and consultations have been taken into account.

Project 2 - PT - In 2007 and 2010, REN, the Portuguese TSO, carried out their first Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) of Grid Development Plans (GDP). The SEA were carried out by a joint team led by Prof. Maria Partidário at IST, the Technical University of Lisbon. Strategic options, as alternatives of possible grid development were analyzed, both from the technical perspective and also from the environmental strategic point of view. Three critical decision factors were used as key evaluation focal themes in environmental assessment: energy, fauna and spatial planning. Public and institutional consultation was conducted at scoping as well as assessment stages. A draft GDP was made public, together with an environmental report, comments and suggestions from different stakeholders were received, and a response was provided. Some led to decision changes. Also, several public sessions were held to debate the GDP and its strategic assessment. Specific meetings took place with regional environmental and territorial institutions. This process of interaction with third parties was a key and decisive part of the SEA process and lessons learnt from it will be useful to share at European level.

Project 3 -SP - In Spain, transmission grid development planning is part of the Energy Planning for Electricity and Gas. Transmission grid development depends directly on energy generation planning, which in Spain is not binding. This situation reduces the possibilities of establishing different grid alternatives. The first SEA process in Spain was carried out in 2007, for the 2008-2016 horizon. At present REE are immersed in the second SEA process, for the 2012-2020 horizon. The approach for presenting alternatives has been different in both processes. In the first case they were based on variations on the particular grid infrastructures proposed in the planning, while in the second process they are based on the necessary grid to establish different possibilities to satisfy a defined demand scenario (they are focused on generation). Regarding participation, in both experiences public consultations are more focused on the technical part of the planning than on environmental or social issues. It is very interesting to compare both experiences, the evolution of public reaction to the document in both cases and the results for each one.

Project 4-e-Highways - A link to the new European high penetration renewable grid - eHIGHWAYS: The European transmission grid will be redesigned to cope with the future high penetration of renewables resulting from the European energy policy objectives. The study for modular development of electricity highways, the ‘electric HIGHWAYS' currently under development by a consortium led by ENTSO-E, in coordination with the EC, will analyze visions of this evolution up to 2050. Social evaluation of grid expansion solutions, with stakeholder involvement, will be a key issue, for which the experiences of the partners of this proposal can submit inputs and ideas.