The efforts by REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais to protect Portugal's woodland and fight forest fires has been highlighted by European authorities. PREVAIL is a project financed by the European Union's Civil Protection mechanism, focusing on prevention as an essential tool to fight forest fires in a more effective and cost-efficient manner. The project has highlighted the work carried out by REN over recent years as an example of good practices. As a result, the company is an integral part of the 'Lessons on Fire - Landscape Solutions to Wildfire' platform.
REN has implemented an integrated approach to the planning of the energy transmission corridors throughout the country. With around 60% of its infrastructures in woodland, the company plays an essential role providing protection against forest fires, based on two pillars: the management of combustible matter, where the clearing of land and the conversion of easement corridors by planting native species such as strawberry trees, almond trees, olive trees, chestnut trees and oak trees is absolutely crucial.
This management has led to the clearing of 33,000 hectares of forest area all over Portugal in the last five years, reaching an average of 38 hectares/day in 2020. The initiatives, which are always carried out on land that does not belong to REN, requires prior contact with the landowners, with an average of 25,000 landowners contacted per year.
The intensification of the conversion actions, from 2010 onwards, has resulted in the planting of over 1 million trees in around 3,000 hectares, replacing fast-growing species with native species, which are more resilient to fires. These conversions involved contacting over 17,000 landowners, who now have the opportunity of obtaining revenue from their land that was often abandoned, as well as of increasing the biodiversity.
Within the scope of the PREVAIL project, the work carried out by REN is part of the intelligent management solutions for combustible matter in relation to the landscape, using synergies, cooperation and better knowledge to comply with sustainability and cost efficiency criteria, from the circular economy point of view, and duly adapting to the lessons learned.
João Gaspar, Head of REN's Easements and Assets department, says: 'in the wake of the major fires that occurred recently in Portugal, it has been shown that these corridors have been an opportunity for the fire-fighters, and in some cases have even been a barrier to the advancement of rural fires.' The conversion of these forest areas has enabled the country 'to have an electricity transmission network that is more resistant to forest fires, which is extremely important in the backdrop of climate change. At the same time, it is a network for protecting the woodland from fires more efficiently and an authentic green infrastructure, which encourages biodiversity.' | See the work REN carries out in woodland in the video below.
PREVAIL (PREVention Action Increases Large fire response preparedness) is a project financed by the European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism (European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) ) whose members are entities and academic institutions from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, represented in Portugal by the School of Agriculture of the University of Lisbon.
The PREVAIL approach is based on prevention as an essential tool to fight the major fires in a more effective and cost-efficient manner. It invests in the analysis of past fires to learn about the effects of the treatment of combustible matter in the development of fires and in the creation of a network for sharing 'intelligent' landscape management solutions.