GRI 304-1, GRI 304-2, GRI 304-3, GRI Sector disclosure Biodiversity, EN12 and EN13
It is the policy of 50Hertz to keep the impact of its activities on nature and the restriction of biological diversity as low as possible. During permit approval procedures for project planning, we not only consider the economy, 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, environmental impact assessments are carried out to minimise any nature conservation conflicts at an early stage. Then an appropriate corridor is identified in which, in a subsequent step, the exact route of the line through that corridor is mapped and a list of necessary protective, compensatory and replacement measures (so-called compensatory 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. Only once the entire process is completed can the construction project 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. Following this, a final assessment is performed.
As part of "Act Now", a pilot project was rolled out in 2020 to increase biodiversity in and around transmission substations. The project comprises various measures, such as green roofs, nesting aids, insect hotels, plant health measures and the prevention of herbicides, which were either being planned or used in a pilot application in the reporting year. The potential of the measures will be analysed in 2021.
According to the BNatSchG [“Bundesnaturschutzgesetz”: Federal Act for the Protection of Nature], there is an obligation to avoid causing preventable damage to nature and the landscape or to otherwise keep it as low as possible. Whenever possible and reasonable, lines are bundled 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. Where interference is unavoidable, 50Hertz takes compensatory measures.
These can be divided into six categories: planting measures, forestry measures, water measures, species protection, dismantling measures and other measures. For this purpose, regional eco pools are being used more and more. Eco pools are contributions to projects of other organisations as well as compensation payments, which enable more comprehensive measures than planting individual replacement plants and are therefore more effective, efficient and sustainable. When planning and implementing compensatory measures, 50Hertz involves the affected communities, conservation agencies, interested citizens and NGOs early in the process. 50Hertz works with them as partners to develop suitable plans early on and suggest these to the authorities as part of our approval planning. Guidelines for targeted compensation management define the action areas necessary for successful approval and implementation of the measures. An internal assessment commission meets every two months to decide on the measures. The chosen measures are recorded in a real estate cadastre. There are currently 186 compensatory and replacement measures being planned in the 50Hertz grid area as well as 640 that are being implemented, maintained or have already been completed. Therefore, the total number of compensatory and replacement measures has increased from 768 in 2019 to 826 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 a significant contribution in making the Baltic Sea safe for humans as well as the environment. Every preparation includes the removal of contaminated sites on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, for example, explosive remnants of war from previous world wars. For the Ostwind2 project, whose two offshore wind farms are expected to generate around 725 megawatts in the future, the first clearings and ground surveys began in 2019 in the shallow water area of the Baltic Sea and on land. The idea of an artificial reef is currently being examined as compensation for unavoidable interventions in the Baltic Sea. In this way, an area of 17 hectares and a water depth of up to 40 metres could contribute to the diverse sealife in the Baltic Sea.
Compensation measures can be implemented, recognised and booked into an eco pool in advance and without concrete intervention. In 2019, the Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Landscape Foundation and 50Hertz have laid the foundation stone for the sustainable biotope network in the Sülze Valley southwest of Magdeburg. The aim is to establish a comprehensive biotope network by upgrading and preserving ecologically valuable areas. For this purpose, the Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Landscape Foundation has set up an eco pool. The aim of the biotope network is to create species-rich and flowering habitats for animals and plants in areas that have become rare today. The cooperation shows that economy and environment are not opposites. With careful planning, it is possible to implement nature conservationally valuable projects in connection with infrastructure projects that would otherwise be difficult or even impossible to realise.50Hertz has already been paying into the project-related eco pool since 2017 and receives eco points in return. These can be used for later necessary compensation measures, for example for the nature conservation compensation of the South-EastLink.
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 therefore have to be regularly kept clear of trees. Trees and shrubs, however, are habitats for countless species of animals and plants. The goal of 50Hertz is to impact these natural spaces as little as possible in the long term, thereby increasing biodiversity under the lines. 50Hertz has already been focusing on ecological aisle management for several years now. In the regular maintenance of line routes, ecological aspects, such as the extraction of individual trees and care for heathers, are taken into account in more than two thirds of the forest aisles in the entire grid area. The pilot activities in the ecological aisle management of existing line routes, such as the creation of forest edges or species-rich grassland and meadows, which were initiated in recent years, are now part of an overall strategy to increase biological diversity. A geo database is currently being created, which presents and organises all activities in line aisles that contribute to the increase of biological diversity, in order to establish a valid basis to target the next course of action. At present, this database contains 40 line sections. The geo database also establishes the spatial reference between forest aisles and the protection zones in the 50Hertz grid area. Based on this correlation, 50Hertz is able to contribute to the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030. The biodiversity strategy, which was officially adopted in May 2020, considers the integration of ecological corridors to be part of a real trans-European nature protection network and, thus, a key obligation to improve biodiversity.
GRI Sector disclosure EN12
Extra-high-voltage lines harm bird life. Hence 50Hertz also makes a huge effort to protect birds and minimise negative impact.
For this purpose, a comprehensive survey was carried out in prior reporting years together with the Brandenburg State Office of Environment and evaluated in cooperation with the experts of the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) and NABU (Naturschutzbund Deutschland), a German nature conservation association. The aim is to identify lines with an increased collision risk for birds and to equip these with bird protection markers. In addition, the data will be fed into a Germany-wide sensitivity map. This project will be implemented in 2021 in cooperation with other transmission and distribution system operators as part of the joint initiative with NABU e. V. and RGI.
As part of a voluntary species conservation measure, 30 additional kilometres of lines were retrofitted with bird collision deterrent markers in the Havelland Luch in 2020, which is highly valuable from an ornithological point of view. At present, bird protection markers have been installed on around 368 kilometres of overhead lines.
50Hertz is committed to effective water protection. As the business activities of 50Hertz do not result in significant water usage, its responsibility in this regard is not so much to reduce water consumption, but to consider water resources in the ground during grid and transmission substation projects and to avoid water and soil pollution with hazardous materials. For instance, 50Hertz has installed special safety features in oil-containing systems. To protect the natural environment, elaborate constructions are installed beneath transformers in transmission substations to prevent drips from entering the soil. The safety systems are inspected regularly by maintenance technicians and refurbished or replaced when needed. Wastewater is only discharged with appropriate permission from water authorities and if it was regularly tested for hazardous substances. With regard to water protection, the WHG ["Wasserhaushaltsgesetz": Water Resources Act] and the AwSV ["Anlagenverordnung": German ordinance on facilities for handling substances that are hazardous to water] are of particular importance to 50Hertz. Employees are trained in the environmentally friendly operation of our systems and water protection officers are kept continuously updated on all new developments.
Für den Fall einer Leckage von wassergefährdenden Stoffen setzt 50Hertz zahlreiche präventive Maßnahmen um. Neben vertraglich gebundenen Dienstleistern steht in allen Umspannwerken und Verwaltungsstandorten ausreichend Material zur Schadensabwehr zur Verfügung. In 2020 wurde der Standard der vorzuhaltenden Materialien überprüft und umfassend erweitert.
Bei den Aktivitäten der 50Hertz auf See wird der Schutz der Ostsee durch eine Vielzahl von Maßnahmen sichergestellt. So wird beispielsweise bereits bei der Planung von Offshore-Plattformen darauf geachtet, dass keine wassergefährdenden Stoffe ins Meer gelangen und möglichst Geräte mit biologisch leicht abbaubaren Hydraulikölen eingesetzt werden.
50Hertz implements a large number of preventive measures to prepare for a leakage of substances hazardous to water. Alongside service providers bound by contract, there is sufficient damage prevention material available in all transmission substations and administration locations. The standard of the material available was examined and significantly improved in 2020.
The protection of the Baltic Sea is ensured by numerous measures for 50Hertz’s offshore activities. Already in the planning of offshore platforms, for example, 50Hertz ensures that no substances hazardous to water enter the sea and, where possible, uses equipment with biologically degradable hydraulic fluids.
Using offshore wind to produce electricity is extremely important and indispensable for climate protection. At the same time, the expansion of offshore wind power and the submarine cables required to transport electricity at the bottom of the sea entail interference with nature. Therefore, in 2020, 18 organisations and companies that cooperate through the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) as an Offshore Coalition signed and published a mutual Memorandum of Understanding with regard to how the biological diversity of the marine ecosystem can be preserved despite the expansion of offshore wind power. In addition to the Marine Grid Declaration signed by 50Hertz and other RGI members in 2019, which stipulated standards beyond the legal requirements for the timely inclusion of stakeholders and for nature conservation and species protection in the offshore grid expansion, 50Hertz expresses its commitment to increasing responsibility in this sensitive environment as a co-signatory of the Offshore Coalition’s Memorandum of Understanding.