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Engage stakeholders

We are the company that enables electricity to be delivered to businesses and people’s homes, transporting it across land and sea. This is a key role in society.


This role also means we have a big responsibility to society, to behave in a trustworthy, open and honest manner towards all those people whose lives we affect. We do this every day by talking and – perhaps more importantly – listening to our stakeholders. This is essential whenever we plan and execute an infrastructure project.

Meeting society’s needs for electricity also means unavoidable consequences for the natural environment – like installing new power lines or constructing underground cables – so we take care to minimise the impact in balance with our business activities.

From the outset, we engage with everyone affected, listening to their questions and needs at an early stage. We make information easily available, take concerns very seriously, explain the consequences based on our expertise and work hard to minimise any negative impact of our work. Ultimately, we are committed to creating a sustainable future for society.

Responsibility includes having high safety standards, which is why we strive to work in the safest way possible, for our own employees but also for those of all our contractors.

Our day-to-day activities can be dangerous, so ensuring everyone’s safety as we go about our business is one of our core values and extends to all our stakeholders. Our safety policies influence our employees, contractors and suppliers most directly.


Stakeholder dialogue

Talking and listening to our stakeholders is very important to develop understanding and acceptance. That’s why we invest heavily in stakeholder dialogue. Throughout the year, we had 756 public meetings and events with around 18,000 visitors. Although we realise that the outcome of these discussions will not be to everyone's satisfaction, we aim for a transparent process with all our stakeholders, where everyone’s views and standpoints are listened to and considered. You can find an overview of all stakeholder activities in 2017 in the 'Other information' section of our report.

We measure the effectiveness of our stakeholder dialogue for our customers, employees and local communities. The customer satisfaction score of 2017 shows a satisfaction of 94% for our German customer base (customers directly connected to our grid). This is in the same range as our last survey in 2015 (95%) and shows that our ongoing customer engagement approach is valued. We did not conduct a customer survey in the Netherlands in 2017, the next survey will take place in 2018.
Our employees expressed how sustainably engaged they are in our two-yearly employee survey. The overall score was 80% compared to 83% in 2015, which is still a relative high level of engagement. More details can be found in the 'Non-financial performance' section of our report.
In two of our Dutch projects we asked our stakeholders to give feedback on our stakeholder approach. The score of both projects is 6.8 (on a scale from 1-10) where mainly communication and frequency of communication is valued very much. A general survey in the Netherlands showed that on average citizens value the contact with infrastructural companies that execute large projects on 6.4, which shows that TenneT is performing above average level in her stakeholder approach.

Our stakeholder vision is based on five clear steps, which are crucial to make our stakeholder dialogue effective. In 2017, we made significant improvements in each of these steps, enhancing the way we interact with society.

SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent work and economic growth – promotes sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation. Being a crucial player in the energy transition, with an investment portfolio of approximately EUR 28 billion in the next ten years, we create not only economic growth in the countries where we operate, but also in other countries in Europe and even outside Europe. We purchase components, hire contractors and challenge the industry to come up with better solutions to make our grid more efficient and future-proof. Having a future-proof grid is an important economic driver in the countries where we operate.

Clear storyline

Telling a clear story is fundamental, not only for the experts in the field, but also for the wider public. To check whether the outside world understands what we mean and what we stand for, we asked the Council of Children for advice.

The Council of Children uses the simple and uncomplicated perspective of children to test ideas and opinions. And one of their messages really stuck with us: "if people know you better, then they'll like you more and there'll be more understanding for renewable energy, for the pylons and the cables".

This made us realise we could improve our tone of voice and simplify our messages, so we now try to communicate with this in mind. We started with a more accessible brochure, explaining what we do and what we stand for, now and in the future.

Facilitate dialogue

Engaging in dialogue with our stakeholders is important to build understanding and acceptance. The best way is to have face-to-face meetings. We have participated in numerous town hall meetings, discussions and public consultations to explain what we stand for and why our projects are necessary.

In 2017, we concluded a strenuous, but ultimately successful process to discuss the construction of the new high-voltage line between Borssele and Tilburg, a rural area in the Netherlands. Although residents would have preferred underground cabling – which was too expensive in this case – we listened carefully to their concerns and found other ways to blend the over-land connection into the landscape. In the end, everyone accepted the process, with the initially difficult negotiations being settled harmoniously.
In our view this example of stakeholder engagement illustrates very well how we believe stakeholder dialogue should be conducted. We have learned from it and will use our learnings as best practice for other projects.

In Germany, we continued with our stakeholder engagement processes for the SuedLink and SuedOst Link – two new high-voltage DC cables connecting mainly renewable energy generated in the North of Germany to consumers across the country, all the way to Bavaria. We were able to overcome significant opposition in a clear and transparent way by explaining the consequences of all alternative solutions . Part of our job is to explain to consumers in southern Germany that the renewable energy they demand cannot be supplied without strengthening the grid by installing high-voltage cables underground.
There were intense stakeholder activities for most of our large AC- Projects, too. For example for the start of the building phase of the 380kV line from Ganderkesee to St.- Hülfe and from Dörpen to West - Niederrhein in Lower Saxony, both of which are pilots for partial AC underground. The initial project was highly disputed in the region, but after fierce opposition by several stakeholders in the last years, we now came to a solution that works for all stakeholders.

SDG 15 – Life on land

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on land – aims to conserve and restore the use of terrestrial ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains. Our activities are intricately linked with nature; our assets are located throughout the Netherlands and Germany, often in areas of natural beauty, thereby impacting biodiversity, ecosystems and landscape. At the same time, TenneT benefits from nature; we create visual screening, noise abatement and security areas around our stations. We recognise that our assets have an impact on nature, but we also recognise that we have a unique opportunity to make a positive contribution.

Continuously improve reputation

A good reputation helps to foster understanding and acceptance, and build trust. One of TenneT’s challenges is to explain the dilemmas it faces in building the infrastructure needed to realise the energy transition. One of the ways we do this is with our Virtual Vision facility in Berlin, where we present a 360-degree perspective of our activities. This illustrates in an easily accessible and playful manner the complexities of meeting stakeholder interests and the role TenneT plays in the energy transition.

This facility also gives visitors the opportunity to experience a virtual reality trip to an offshore converter station. Virtual Vision has been very well received since opening in May 2017, with the communications concept winning recognition as the best TSO brand at the CHARGE energy branding conference in Reykjavik.

To be closer to our stakeholders and support our increasing European activities, we opened an office in Brussels in June 2017. This step was greatly appreciated by the European Commission, which encourages our commitment to further contributing to the European Energy Union. Our presence in Brussels was further strengthened with the 2017 election of our operations director Ben Voorhorst as President of the European Association of TSO's, ENTSO-E.

In November, we organised a Europe-wide NGO consultation on our North Sea Wind Power Hub concept at our Brussels office. This gave us crucial input for the earliest stages of the development of this long-term vision for the large-scale exploitation of wind energy on the North Sea.

Improve the communications skills of our organisation

To ensure our own people are better equipped to communicate with our stakeholders, we actively encourage our employees to think like stakeholders. One of the ways in which we do this is using a stakeholder role-playing game we developed that addresses the challenge of managing stakeholders in a made-up infrastructure project. The game presents players with a range of stakeholder interests, possible scenarios and issues that could affect a project. It teaches staff to better anticipate stakeholder needs and introduces them to best practices, so that they learn how to deal with specific, difficult situations.

Monitor and measure the quality of our stakeholder communication

We conducted a first pilot of measuring the effectiveness of the stakeholder approach used in our Randstad-North and Doetinchem-Wesel projects. A survey was conducted at the start of the project and repeated during execution. The results show that our approach is effective, Randstad-North scored 6.8 (on a scale from 1-10) at start and during execution. Doetinchem-Wesel scored 5.7 at start and increased the score to 6.8 during execution. Communication means and measures are valued, especially contact with employees from TenneT is contributing to a better understanding of our projects. Being even more in contact with stakeholders and look from their perspective are the improvement areas coming out of these surveys.


In addition to investing in dialogue with our stakeholders, we also invest in our safety culture. Safety is a very important value for TenneT in everything we do. TenneT sets high standards when it comes to working safely. In our daily work, in our processes and in our cooperation with our stakeholders. Together we make a concerted effort to achieve our safety mission of zero harm, which means that safety is our number one priority in every activity that we undertake.

We are building a culture where we encourage safety leadership within TenneT, with a harmonised and integrated approach to safety standards. TenneT strives for a culture among management and staff where safety is intrinsically taken care of. We also extend this to our contractor management, which means that our contractors also work to the same high standards. For this, we use the Safety Culture Ladder (SCL) as a tool to increase safety awareness and enhance safety culture. Not only within our own organisation but also for our supply chain.

Tragically, we had to face three third party fatal incidents related to our activities: one on a shipyard connected to the construction of the BorWin3 platform and two public road accidents during construction activities on our onshore projects in the Netherlands and Germany. TenneT is deeply affected by these fatal incidents. To prevent similar incidents from happening ever again, we are working hard on improving on our safety leadership to raise safety awareness among all our managers and employees, whether directly employed by us or not. We want everyone to take the same level of responsibility and strive to prevent any kind of accident from happening on one of our projects again.

Although we work tirelessly to define and apply our safety regulations, it is still not always possible to embed our 100% safety mindset in every person working across our operations, which includes both internal and external employees as well as contractors. In 2017, we did not achieve the safety targets we set ourselves, our Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIF) was 2.5, which is above our target of 1.8. This is mainly related to incidents with contractor personnel. Our performance makes us realise that we need to continue with our safety ambition beyond 2018 and we have decided to take some more time to realise our ultimate goal of our LTIF score below one, with target date 2020. For 2018 our target is set at 1.8, which shows the ongoing importance of our safety actions and initiative to include our suppliers in the safety culture journey to jointly achieve a better performance.

For more safety figures, please see the additional CSR data report on our website.


Engage stakeholders
1Lines and pylons in our landscape are not easily accepted, but they are a necessary part of modern life.We understand that most people would prefer to see electricity cables laid underground, but this is often impossible from both a cost and a technical point of view. That’s why underground cabling is mainly applied in densely populated areas. Otherwise, we try and find other, simpler solutions to blend in with the landscape and minimize intrusion. All this can be very challenging to explain to local residents, but we try to be as transparent and constructive as possible.
2As a large, technical company, we may not always be the best communicators.However, we are working on this and know we need to get better. Some of our recent efforts have been applauded, but we accept that we are not there yet. Therefore, we will continue to improve our stakeholder approach to make sure we develop understanding and create acceptance for what we do.
3Safety is a top priority for our company, but it remains a challenge to realise our ambition of 'zero' harm.We have set ourselves the target to bring our LTIF score below 1 in 2020. Every employee and contractor is expected to contribute to make our working environment truly safe. Where the Safety culture ladder will also be used to further raise safety awareness and culture at our contractors.


The recently formed Dutch government aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030, compared to 1990. This target provides a solid basis for accelerating the current transition to renewable energy, with wind energy as one of the remaining pillars. The government also announced that all of the Netherlands’ coal plants shall be closed by 2030. These plans will have a significant impact on our activities and we foresee an ongoing dialogue with the Dutch government in the years ahead on how to make sure we can transport large quantities of electricity in such a way that is both cost-efficient and acceptable to society.

Our short-term focus is on the realisation of the offshore wind power roadmap Routekaart Windenergie op Zee. We are well on track to connect the wind farms off the Dutch coast and will be continuing our efforts to make sure we keep to the tight schedule to have all connections in operation by 2023. We are also awaiting the new energy transition legislation for the Netherlands. The new law is meant to update the existing Electricity Act 1998 and Gas Act. It will set clear guidelines for grid operator investments, which will provide clarity to the market.

Around the world, Germany is seen as a visionary with regard to leading the energy transition. Germany has made climate protection one of its priorities in its Energiewende, the country's dual shift from fossil fuel and nuclear power to a renewables-based energy system. Germany also pushed hard in July to convince the G20 group of leading industrialised and emerging economies to step up efforts to meet the pledge of the Paris Climate Agreement, keeping all countries but the United States on board. The German government had set itself the ambition to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% in 2030, compared to 1990, which is still an ambitious target

Meeting the pledge and the country ambition will remain a challenging assignment because we see obstacles to implementation. The German public is also increasingly aware of how this energy transition affects their lives, raising questions and debate. We play an important role in facilitating these changes and are fully aware that the ongoing discussions are unlikely to decrease or become any easier. However, we see it as our responsibility to be open at all times about the alternatives and implications for society.

Safety campaign


At TenneT, safety is of paramount importance. Every day, we are aware of the risks that the construction of a high-voltage connection entails. Our first priority is to ensure that everyone comes home safely at the end of the day. This applies not only to our own employees, but also to the people who live and work around our construction sites. We don’t think that wearing a hard hat and shielding potentially hazardous areas is enough and persistently work on improving our safety culture. We make every effort to secure the environment where we work, placing building boards around our construction sites, and controlling traffic to ensure a better overview and therefore safety. In consultation with the municipalities in which we work, we always draw up a traffic plan to ensure the safety of local residents and road users near our construction sites.

Ben Voorhorst, Chief Operating Officer TenneT: "We want everyone to go home safely to their families after a working day, each and every day."

Road safety is so important to us that we recently launched a new campaign 'Are you in the picture?' within the Randstad 380 kV Noord ring project. This campaign will be rolled out nationwide for all projects in the future.

'Are you in the picture?' alerts road users – car drivers, cyclists and pedestrians – about the importance of making themselves visible to trucks. No matter how well equipped trucks are with mirrors and sometimes cameras, there is always a danger that the driver will have a blind spot when manoeuvring. Our campaign also encourages people to always seek eye contact with construction workers. Working with local people in this way should help us prevent accidents, together.

Henri van der Kamp, member Executive Board Volker Wessels: "Working together to improve safety is of the utmost importance to all involved. I really appreciate the open and constructive dialogue we have with TenneT on this".