BestGrid was a EU-led initiative made up of five pilot projects located in Belgium, Germany and the UK. During the project, Transmission System Operators and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worked to define initiatives to improve local and public acceptance for electrical grid development projects and the associated processes involved in securing consents or permits. The objectives of the project were:
- To enhance transparency and public participation
- To speed up permitting/consenting procedures by proactively addressing or even surpassing environmental protection standards
- To encourage the implementation of constructive public engagement in consenting procedures for European energy infrastructure Projects of Common Interest, as defined under the EU Trans-European Networks-Energy (TEN-E) Regulation 347/2013
As specialist advisor to National Grid on consenting, environmental assessment and stakeholder engagement for marine interconnector projects we worked as part of the National Grid team to understand what constitutes Best Practice. This involved developing a programme of work to directly engage with stakeholders, both individually and collectively. The programme of work developed took the form of carefully planned surveys and workshops. An action plan was developed to implement the findings of the study which comprised the following:
- Structured stakeholder interviews to gain feedback and establish learning points
- Stakeholder workshops to further understand collective stakeholder views on best practice methods
It was concluded that whilst consenting procedures typically dictate minimum periods for consultation and decision-making, they rarely have a maximum timescale. In addition, poorly planned and ineffective engagement slows consenting. The over-arching theme of the action plan was that expediting the consenting process requires well planned, efficient and effective stakeholder engagement and set out approaches to achieve this.