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Sustainability Report 2016 Our Responsibility

NATURE CONSERVATION

It is our policy to keep our impact on nature as low as possible. During permit approval procedures for project planning, we not only consider the needs of residents and technological concerns, but always keep in mind the protection of plant and animal life. In the preliminary stages of such procedures, an examination of the area is required in addition to environmental impact assessments. These examinations determine the current status and identify the least harmful line corridor. Afterwards, the exact route of the line through that corridor is mapped and a list of necessary protective measures is compiled.

All of these examinations are conducted together with external environmental planners, routing experts, and if necessary other scientific and nature conservation specialists. Once the entire process is completed, the construction project can commence – under external ecological construction supervision. Site preparation and construction schedules are implemented in ways that minimise even the temporary impact on natural features, take conservation periods and requirements into consideration early in the process, and obligate companies subcontracting for 50Hertz to consider the ecological aspects of their operations.

 

Essential components of Ecological Building Supervision

  • Monitoring of compliance with protection, avoidance and minimisation measures of the landscaping plan and fulfilment of requirements and conditions of the planning resolution
  • Consulting on the choice of areas for site preparation andmaterials storage
  • Approval of all areas used after re-cultivation or renaturationincluding photographic documentation
  • Written documentation of protection and minimisationmeasures for submittal to the nature conservationauthorities
  • Recording of unavoidable interference during the constructionphase not listed in the planning resolution
  • Participation construction consultations

mitigating and compensatory measures

Where necessary, we undertake to compensate for interference by means of mitigating and compensatory measures (Ausgleichs- und Er-satzmaßnahmen or AuE). When planning and implementing AuE, we involve the affected communities, conservation agencies and NGOs early in the process. They know the peculiarities of their natural environments and habitats better than anyone else. We work with them as partners to develop suitable plans and suggest these as part of our approval planning. Currently, there are 503 AuE in the planning or implementation stage in the 50Hertz grid area. Our AuE can be divided into six categories (see p. 24).

A good example for an AuE measure that combines ecological as well as cultural considerations is the restoration of the Renaissance Gardens of Kannawurf Palace in the Sömmerda district according to historical plans. Apart from a 240 metre natural stone wall, which will provide habitat for many endangered reptile species, the baroque gardens offer an impressive array of plant life on over 6,000 square metres and keep three gardeners employed. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, has an investment volume of roughly EUR 1 million, and is one of 113 AuE we have conducted as part of the construction of the South-West inter-connection through Thuringia.

When we plan, construct and operate power lines, we initiate and shape the dialogue with local environmental and nature conservation authorities. We plan potential line corridors in joint consultations in order to protect nature and landscape as best we can. Whenever possible and rea-sonable, we bundle lines with existing overhead lines and infrastructures such as railway beds and highways. Line routes are adapted to the local natural features so as to impact the integrity of the landscape no more than necessary.

What are mitigating and compensatory measures?

The Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz or BNatSchG) regulates all nature conservation issues in Germany. It stipulates appropriate mitigating or compensatory measures for infrastructure projects such as building power lines with regard to interference with nature (Impact Regulation). According to BNatschG, the originator is obligated to refrain from avoidable impairments of nature and landscape or to keep them as low as possible (avoidance and minimisation imperative).

Unavoidable impairments must be offset by appropriate mitigating and compensatory measures. At 50Hertz, we have always given priority to implementing our own mitigating and compensatory measures, such as replanting. Participation in projects of other organisations is also an option, which we intend to use more frequently going forward for reasons of efficiency.

ecological aisle management

To build overhead lines in forested areas, we generally have to establish aisles, because the lines need enough space to the sides and be high enough off the ground to maintain the necessary safety distances. Sections of these aisles have to be continuously kept clear of trees. Trees and shrubs, however, are habitat for countless species of animals and plants. Our goal is to impact these natural spaces as little as possible in the long term, thereby increasing biodiversity under our lines. In 2010, we cooperated with Erfurt University to develop a system of ecological aisle man-agement (Ökologisches Schneisenmanagement or ÖSM), which allows us to plan and manage our aisles with foresight, minimal impact and ecological sustainability: The aisle under the overhead line is redeveloped in ways that restore natural habitats while still facilitating safe operation. Our projects therefore create biologically diverse and valuable natural spaces.

We apply our ÖSM system as mandated to new line construction, and also to existing aisles on a voluntary basis. We have identified a total of 550 kilometres of existing aisles in our control area that lead through forested areas and are therefore principally suited to ÖSM. In 2016, we conducted an aerial survey of 190 kilometres to identify individual ÖSM areas and prepare the planning. Once the planning stage is completed, all planting work done in an aisle is aligned with ÖSM principles. Compared to 2015, we were able to extend our replanting efforts on forest edges from 5.5 kilometres to 7.1 kilometres and increase the number of plantings from 2,000 to 20,700 in 2016. We first deployed ÖSM in a new construction project during the building of South-West interconnection line in sections 2 and 3. In total, 36.5 kilometres of the new high voltage line, also known as “Thüringer Strombrücke” (Thuringia Power Bridge) were completely implemented or planned according to ÖSM principles.