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Engage stakeholders

Consumers and businesses across the Netherlands and Germany rely on the electricity we transport, across land and sea, giving us an important role in society.

Every minute of every day, 365 days a year, TenneT works to ensure electricity is reliably and affordably available to all who need it in the markets we serve. Meeting society’s electricity needs is a fundamental responsibility that guides everything we do. We have a dialogue with our stakeholders every day and, as we perform our work, we aim to make all information easily available, take concerns seriously and use our expertise and experience to explain the necessity and effects of our work.

As we aim to do everything in the interests of our stakeholders, we must proceed in a way that attempts to build consensus and acceptance. We are aware that powering society cannot be done without impact on local communities and the environment. Installing new power lines – above or below ground, or under the sea – has consequences for nature and people. This is why we engage with our stakeholders during and after our projects. Our priority is to minimise any negative impact, while delivering the critical electricity infrastructure – on land and at sea – our society relies on.

Our reputation as a responsible, engaged and connected corporate citizen is important to us; better understanding and acceptance of our work, developed patiently over time through clear and transparent communication and respectful dialogue, underpins our licence to operate.

It is also important for us to play our part in the public debate on the energy transition, for example through our involvement in the Dutch government’s Climate Tables. This forum was introduced to gain expert insight and advice from key players in the energy transition, as the Dutch government strives to meet the CO2 reduction ambitions of the Dutch Climate Agreement.

Our ambition to engage with stakeholders links to several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, SDGs 14 and 15, respectively relating to the sustainable use of sea and land, direct us in how we engage with communities and NGOs when planning and conducting our work in the natural environment. SDG 8, on decent work and economic growth, reflects our responsibility towards our employees and contractors. Furthermore, as a company that promotes diversity, we embrace SDG 5 on gender equality, with initiatives to encourage female leaders and equal opportunities for all employees. Among our stakeholders, we also aim to foster an environment of equality and respect, where everyone’s views and standpoints are listened to and taken into account. More details on how we performed in these areas are disclosed in the Non-financial chapter.

Results

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Stakeholder dialogue is essential for developing understanding and acceptance. During 2018, we held 738 public meetings and events in the Netherlands and Germany, with over 12,500 visitors and participants. We aim for a fully transparent process, where all stakeholders’ views and standpoints are listened to and considered.

We measure the effectiveness of our stakeholder dialogue with customers, employees and local communities, using various tools. Our customer satisfaction survey, which we run in alternate years in Germany and the Netherlands, is a major source of insights. In the latest survey, conducted in the Netherlands, our overall customer satisfaction score (customers directly connected to our grid) rose slightly to 87%, compared to 86% in 2016. In the most recent survey in Germany (2017), we recorded a customer satisfaction score of 94% showing that our ongoing work to engage with stakeholders is helping to maintain consistently high satisfaction scores.

Gauging how sustainably engaged our employees are is also important. We do this via an employee survey. The last survey conducted in 2017, showed a high level of employee engagement of 80%.

To maintain and further increase this level of employee engagement, we also recognise the importance of building our reputation among potential recruits versus our industry peers. To this end, our success in the 2018 MT500 survey is an important achievement, ranking TenneT among the 25 most-respected companies in the Netherlands

Other ongoing tools for measuring satisfaction with our stakeholder engagement, are the regular surveys we run at each phase of a new project. These ask people in the local community how they value their contact with TenneT, and the quality of communication and dialogue through information evenings, social media, emails, website and newsletters. On average, TenneT receives a rating of 6.7/10. Research in the Netherlands shows that, on average, the public values the contact with infrastructure companies that execute large projects at 6.4, demonstrating that TenneT is performing on par with accepted benchmarks.

For particularly large projects, we also opened dedicated information centres. During 2018, for example, we opened an information centre in Dankern, Germany, for the AC cable under construction between Dörpen and Niederrhein, and a DC cable information centre in Wilster, for the new converter site serving the NordLink. In the Netherlands we opened an information centre in Kruiningen for people seeking information about the high-voltage connection between Borssele and Rilland.

Challenges

ChallengeAction
Engage stakeholders
1As a company that builds critical infrastructure in the natural environment, our engagement with stakeholders may tread a line between societal and private interests. What is good for and desired by society is not always welcomed by the communities which are affected by our projects. After all, lines and pylons in our landscape may not easily be accepted, but they are a necessity to transport electricity.We meet this challenge by ensuring we have dialogues taking into account local interests, but we are aware that we will not overcome all local opposition. Moreover we identify possible constraints and cost of solutions in early stages of the decision-making process and communicate this openly on both local and political level.
2Furthermore, the debate regarding health risks related to power cables and magnetic fields is still ongoing.We make sure we comply with rules and regulations when building our assets taking sufficient caution. We proactively inform both governments and other stakeholders on magnetic fields related to our projects in cooperation with other parties involved (e.g. RIVM, DSOs, etc).

Strategic risks

 As the energy transition gathers pace, there is a growing need for better external communication to explain its effects on society transparently. If there is a perceived lack of transparency, there is a risk of high dissatisfaction with TSOs, with consequential reputational damage, or financial loss in the form of lower investment or reduced cost reimbursements by ACM and/or BNetzA. To mitigate this risk, TenneT takes a leading role in stakeholder engagement, explaining its decisions to communities affected by its work, while also opening the door to discuss alternatives. As part of this, TenneT also takes into account alternatives outside the TSO business, e.g. sector coupling. Those alternatives have the potential to significantly reduce investments.

To ensure a future-proof grid, investments in extension and reinforcement by TSOs are necessary. The amended German NABEG legislation will include improvements with regard to licencing requirements, for instance for the replacement of existing overhead lines by higher voltage capacities and the option to use renewables as re-dispatch capacity. In the event of delays in project realisation, penalties could be imposed. To mitigate this risk, TenneT introduced professional project management many years ago. Despite this, we experienced and still anticipate the risk of bottlenecks caused by scarcity of resources and delays during the licensing process including as a result of stakeholder objections. Bearing these possible delays in mind, TenneT continuously reviews its project milestones and project commissioning dates.

Outlook

During 2018, the Dutch government engaged in an intense debate as it formulated a new action plan to combat climate change. This resulted in the publication of the ‘Klimaatakkoord’ (Climate Agreement) in July, with the Netherlands setting itself a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide) by almost half (49%) in 2030, compared to 1990. That is 48.7 megatons (48.7 billion kilograms) more than targeted by previous policy.

Arriving at this landmark agreement involved an intensive process of multi-stakeholder consultation, including five 'Climate Tables’ of energy sector players, three task groups and dozens of working groups. More than one hundred parties, including TenneT, were directly involved in the preparations. The result is an extensive package of agreements, measures and instruments that should reduce Dutch CO2 emissions by at least 49% by 2030.

Since the summer, a great deal of hard work has been done, within and between sectors, on a package of measures to put the Dutch government’s plans into action. The focus of this work follows three main areas: standardisation, pricing and subsidies. Cost is a recurring theme in all discussions, as the investments required to achieve the targets are high, but at the same time the government requires energy to remain affordable for all households. In addition, the competitive position of the Dutch business community must be maintained.

In Germany the Energiewende will rely heavily on renewable energy (particularly wind, photovoltaics, and hydroelectricity), energy efficiency, and energy demand management. Most, if not all, existing coal-fired generation capacity will need to be retired. The phase-out of Germany's nuclear power stations, to be complete by 2022, is a key part of the program. The German government has set itself the ambition to reduce CO2 emission by 55% in 2030, compared to 1990. These targets go well beyond European Union legislation and the national policies of other European states.

As TenneT is a TSO covering large parts of Germany, we are adapting and upgrading our electricity infrastructure to play our part in facilitating the Energiewende. One of the obstacles we face is that attitudes to new infrastructure – such as the construction of power lines – varies between German states. Overall, the German public are well-informed and have strong views about the effects of the Energiewende on their lives, resulting in ongoing public debate. This makes the planning and execution of new construction more challenging. In this context, we feel it is our responsibility to be open and transparent and involve local communities and other stakeholders in the decision-making process as much as possible.

These investments are essential to achieve our over-riding mission: to ensure that over 41 million end-users in the Netherlands and a large part in Germany have a secure supply of energy. With an investment portfolio of approximately EUR 35 billion over the next 10 years, involving onshore and offshore projects in both countries, we are working hard to provide a grid that meets society’s energy demands and helps government achieve ambitious climate targets.

Harnessing ground-breaking new technology  plays an essential role in this, as well as working closely with industry partners. Green hydrogen (hydrogen produced as a result of the electrolysis of water, using renewably generated electricity) is one such solution, and is being increasingly considered as part of a sustainable energy mix. The key benefit of green hydrogen is that it can be stored, which means it can help balance the fluctuating supply of wind and solar electricity. TenneT has joined forces with Gasunie, which owns the Netherlands gas transmission network, to conduct studies into the use of green hydrogen in the future.

As we and others work to build an electricity system in the challenging years ahead, we will strive to keep the cost for society as low as possible. We will also involve our stakeholders – including local communities – at the earliest stage of our projects, thereby building social consensus for our construction activities.

Case study: Community dialogue

Netherlands - Geertruidenberg

When TenneT began planning a new 380 kV connection between Rilland and Tilburg in the Netherlands, the Minister of Economic Affairs decided that the route would pass over part of the territory of the municipality of Geertruidenberg. The plan included placing sections of the existing above-ground 150 kV connection, between Geertruidenberg and Waalwijk, partially underground.

The Geertruidenberg town council was given the opportunity to decide the location of the underground cable. During the process, TenneT worked closely with the municipality, engaging local residents, landowners, provincial authorities, neighbourhood associations, water boards and nature organisations to find a consensus for the route of the cable and, where possible, making decisions together.

For example, two design workshops were organised involving representatives of various interest groups. During these, the possible locations for the new underground cable were considered, with the advantages and disadvantages of each one mapped out and discussed.

The workshop results were presented at an information evening for Geertruidenberg residents and landowners. We were very pleased with the turnout and the positive feedback received afterwards from attendees regarding this event.

Germany - Westküstenleitung

An example of our close connection with our stakeholders, is TenneT’s West Coast Line (Westküstenleitung) a 380 kV and 140 km-long AC power line. Starting in Brunsbüttel, it will connect the German and the Danish electricity transmission systems (planned to be completed in 2022). The West Coast Line is on the European Commission’s list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), as an important interconnector supporting the EU's energy and climate policy.

In 11 community events, stakeholders were invited to receive information concerning TenneT's building activities. Moreover, meetings with local communities and mayors were organised to find the most acceptable solutions for erecting pylons along the route as well as discussions on how to use local roads during construction in the, safest and most careful way. For the most northern part, between Klixbuell and the Danish border, TenneT has started the pre-planning period with eight dialogue events, also involving the government of Schleswig-Holstein and representatives of all local districts.