GRI 304-1, GRI 304-2, GRI 304-3, GRI Sector disclosure Biodiversity, EN12 and EN13
50Hertz aims to keep the impact of its own activities on nature and biodiversity as low as possible. Economic efficiency, the concerns of local residents, technology and the protection of flora and fauna are taken into account during approval procedures linked to its projects. As part of the project approval process, environmental impact assessments (EIA) are carried out early on to minimise steps which could undermine nature conservation. An environmental corridor is then planned out to follow the exact route of the electrical line. At the same time, protection, mitigation and compensation measures are identified. All of these are carried out with support from external environmental planners, routing experts and, if necessary, other science and nature conservation experts. Once the entire process has been completed, the construction project can commence with external ecological construction supervision in place. Construction schedules are implemented in such a way that even temporary impacts on nature are minimised; moreover, deadlines and requirements relevant to nature conservation are taken into consideration and subcontractors are required to consider the ecological aspects of their operations. A final audit will be conducted following the measure.
Under ActNow, a pilot project was launched to increase biodiversity in and around our substations. The project comprised different measures, such as the installation of a green roof, nesting boxes for birds, insect shelters, and the avoidance of herbicides. In 2021, a decision to ban the use of herbicides around all substations from 2023 was officially adopted. Alternative methods to control undesirable vegetation are being tested and evaluated. Furthermore, analyses carried out as part of biotope mapping across 15 substations in Germany led to specific opportunities for increasing biodiversity being identified. These analyses led to the most efficient measures being implemented from 2022 onwards.
The use of wind at sea to generate electricity is enormously important and indispensable for climate protection. At the same time, the expansion of offshore wind energy and the submarine cables needed to transport such electricity involve the natural environment being disturbed. Therefore, in 2020, 18 organizations and companies working together in the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) signed and published a joint declaration of intent as the "Offshore Coalition" on how the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem can be preserved despite offshore wind energy expansion. Beyond the "Marine Grid Declaration" co-signed by 50Hertz - with which RGI members had set the standards for the early involvement of stakeholders and for nature and species protection in offshore grid expansion beyond the legal requirements in 2019 - 50Hertz as a co-signatory of the "Offshore Coalition" declaration of intent is committed to the growing responsibility in this sensitive environment.
According to the German Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG), there is an obligation to refrain from causing avoidable disturbances to nature and landscapes, or to ensure such disturbances are reduced to a minimum (in line with avoidance and minimisation requirements). Whenever it makes sense, power lines are combined and bundled with existing overhead lines and other infrastructure such as railway lines and motorways. In order not to unnecessarily disturb the landscape, lines are adapted in line with the conditions of the landscape. Where disturbances are unavoidable, 50Hertz undertakes compensation measures.
These measures each fall into one of six categories: planting; forestry; hydraulic engineering; species protection; demolition; and ‘other’. For this purpose, regional eco poolings are being increasingly established. We make financial contributions to projects led by other organisations and make compensation payments, which enable more comprehensive measures to be taken (rather than just replacing plants, for example) during those projects, meaning that the solutions used are more effective, efficient and sustainable. When planning and implementing compensation measures, 50Hertz involves local communities, conservation agencies, interested citizens and NGOs early on in their design, developing suitable plans and proposing them to the authorities as part of the approval planning process. Guidelines related to targeted compensation management define the action areas which are necessary for the successful approval and implementation of these measures. An internal assessment commission meets every two months to decide on the measures that will be adopted. The measures which are selected are then recorded in a land register. Currently, 153 mitigation and compensation measures are being implemented or have been planned across the 50Hertz grid area, while 684 are ongoing or have been terminated. In total, the number of all measures increased from 814 in 2020 to 837 in the reporting year.
Planting tree aisles and rows, hedges, orchards
Forest restructuring, first afforestation
Pond renaturation, restoring straightened rivers to their original condition, creating small bodies of waters, renaturation of flowing and still bodies of waters
Unsealing, demolition of buildings in community outdoor areas
Building amphibian protection facilities, nesting aids, bat habitats, reptile habitats, species protection towers
Cabling medium voltage lines
50Hertz makes an important contribution to ensuring the Baltic Sea is safe for humans and marine flora and fauna. For example, during the preparation of offshore projects, contaminated sites (that have unexploded ordnance from past wars, for example) along the seabed are cleared. For the Ostwind 2 project (which will include two offshore wind farms that will generate around 725 MW), the first clearance activities and soil surveys were started in the shallow waters of the Baltic Sea as well as on land in 2019. The possibility of developing an artificial reef is currently being explored as a compensation measure for the unavoidable impacts of the project. This would enable a contribution to biodiversity in the Baltic Sea across an area of 17 hectares and at a water depth up to 40 metres.
Compensation measures can be carried out, recognized and entered into an eco-account in advance and without concrete intervention. In this virtual account, the measures are accounted for in the form of eco-points and managed transparently. This creates greater temporal flexibility in the planning and implementation of measures. In 2019, the Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Landscape Foundation and 50Hertz started the sustainable biotope network system in the Sülze valley which s located southwest of Magdeburg. The goal of this project is to establish a comprehensive biotope network by upgrading and preserving ecologically valuable areas. The Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Landscape Foundation has set up an eco-account for this purpose. The aim of the biotope network is to create species-rich and flowering habitats for animals and plants on areas that have become rare today. This collaboration shows that economy and environment are not mutually exclusive. Through careful planning, it is possible to realise projects with high nature conservation value in connection with infrastructure projects, which otherwise could not be realised or only with great difficulty.
50Hertz has been making payments into the project-specific eco-account since 2017 and receives eco-points in return. These can be used later on when compensation measures need to be undertaken, for instance for the ecological compensation of the SuedOstLink.
When building overhead lines in forest areas, corridors along these lines are created. Space needs to be cleared on either side of the conductor cables to make sure they are safe, which means trees have to be removed along certain sections along these corridors. However, trees and shrubs provide habitats for numerous animals and plants. The goal is to minimise any negative impacts on these natural areas in the long term whilst increasing biodiversity. For several years now, 50Hertz has been focusing on ecological route management. During the regular maintenance of such routes, considerations such as the removal of individual trees and the maintenance of the heathland are taken into account across more than two thirds of forest corridors located across the entire grid area. Pilot activities which were started in recent years along existing routes (including the creation of forest edges or the establishment of species-rich meadows and pastures) are now part of our strategy for increasing biodiversity. A geodatabase that includes all activities along lines that contribute to increasing biodiversity is being created; this database will serve as a guide for further actions that need to be taken. As of 2021, almost 100 line sections have been recorded in this database. The geodatabase also outlines the spatial relationship between forest corridors and protected areas in the 50Hertz grid area. Based on this, 50Hertz is able to contribute to the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which was officially adopted in May 2020 and considers ecological corridors to be essential for the creation of a Trans-Europe Nature Network.
95% ecological route management by 2030
As part of ActNow, 50Hertz has set itself the goal of introducing ecological route management across 95% of routes which have been identified as suitable by 2030. In order to further develop our approach to biodiversity and ecological route management, we have started holding discussions about these specific topics with external stakeholders, such as nature conservation organisations and universities.
GRI Sector disclosure EN12
High-voltage lines can harm birds. 50Hertz therefore works hard to protect birds and minimise any possible negative impacts on them.
Over the past few years, an extensive study has been carried out with the Brandenburg State Environmental Agency. This was evaluated with experts from the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) and the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). The aim of the study was to identify lines which posed an increased risk to birds, in order to equip them with bird protection markers. In 2020, a further 30 km of transmission lines in the area of Havelländisches Luch (which is very rich in terms of bird diversity) were fitted with markers as part of a voluntary species protection measure. Currently, bird protection markers have been installed along around 368 km of overhead lines across the 50Hertz grid area.
368 km of overhead lines equipped with bird markers.
In 2021, 6 existing lines, 122 km of which run through areas which are vulnerable in terms of bird habitats, were checked to see if bird protection markers could be fitted along them.
50Hertz is committed to undertaking effective water conservation measures. 50Hertz plans to collect and evaluate how much water it uses for administrative and technical purposes and, where necessary, to design measures to address any issues. The focus of this work will be on water retention in the ground as part of line and substation projects, as well as preventing the contamination of water and soil through the use of hazardous substances. Thus, oil-filled installations, such as transformers or generators, will constantly be monitored. Extensive structures are located underneath oil-filled assets in onshore and offshore substations to protect the environment and prevent leaks from entering the soil or water. The installations are regularly inspected and, if necessary, renovated or renewed. The handling and storage of substances which are hazardous to water is ensured through regular inspections and staff training. Waste water may only be discharged if an official permit has been obtained and if the water has been checked to ensure that it is free of pollutants. When it comes to water protection, the Water Resources Act (WHG) and the Plant Ordinance (AwSV) are important for 50Hertz. Water protection officers monitor, advise and support the staff who are responsible for this. Our employees are regularly informed about new security regulations.
In the event that hazardous substance leaks occur, 50Hertz implements numerous measures to mitigate them. In addition to using the services of contracted service providers, damage prevention material is made available at all substations and administrative locations. In 2021, a standard set of materials was installed across our sites; this consists of a box and includes a natural binding agent, collection trays and various bits of collection and disposal equipment. Any deviations from existing processes as well as contaminations are recorded in an incident report which is written up by 50Hertz; following this, the causes are determined and evaluated, and improvement measures are defined.
50Hertz ensures that the Baltic Sea are protected through a variety of measures when it undertakes offshore activities. For example, throughout the planning stage for offshore platforms, care is taken to ensure that no hazardous substances are leaked into the sea and that equipment with biodegradable hydraulic oil is used wherever possible.
The use of wind at sea to generate electricity is enormously important and indispensable for climate protection. At the same time, the expansion of offshore wind energy and the submarine cables needed to transport such electricity require the natural environment to be disturbed. That is why 18 organisations and companies collaborating in the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI), signed and published a joint declaration of intent as the Offshore Coalition, describing how the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem can be protected despite the development of offshore wind power. In addition to the 2019 Marine Grid Declaration co-signed by 50Hertz (this declaration, signed by all RGI members, sets clear standards regarding the early involvement of stakeholders and nature and species protection in offshore grid expansion projects, beyond legal requirements), 50Hertz is committed to growing responsibility in this sensitive environment as a co-signatory of the Offshore Coalition declaration of intent.