A proactive dialogue with stakeholders (such as local authorities, residents and public initiatives) has long been part of our existing business strategy. A prime example of sustainable cooperation, the model of citizen participation relating to Welser Abfallverwertung, has now been in existence since 1991, making it the longest and most successful active model of a public participation, mediation and project environment management process.

The central element of this model is an Environmental Commission, which acts as a link between Energie AG as the operator of the waste incineration plant and the neighbouring communities. The process has enabled us to continuously develop and strengthen mutual understanding. The aim is to ensure that all parties involved are included in decision-making through an open and honest information policy, while at the same time maintaining trust with constant monitoring. The principles of democratic politics were added to this model in the late 1990s.

Energie AG’s principles on democratic politics set out how the company intends to proceed in protecting the interests of relevant members of the public above and beyond the legally required minimum. The principles on democratic politics are applied on a Group-wide basis for power plant expansions, grid expansions and other approval processes. Energie AG is fully committed and does everything within its means to pursue this approach. However, it should be noted that it is sometimes impossible to resolve existing conflicts – especially in the context of grid expansion – via this method of public participation and involvement. In this context, the potential for conflict often arises from unsubstantiated sources of information (such as certain online sources). Energie AG and Netz OÖ endeavour to actively support stakeholders by providing access to independent expert knowledge and studies.

In the past, a lack of transparency was regularly criticised in the planning process and decision-making for grid extension – particularly in connection with 110 kV power lines. In the actual approval process, the applicants, approval authorities and politicians were repeatedly confronted with questions about the fundamental need for the overhead line/underground cable system decision and about the basis for the intended route.

In order to improve this situation, experts from the State of Upper Austria, grid operators Netz OÖ, Linz Netz GmbH and Austrian Power Grid AG, and external consultants have drawn up “Guidelines for Route Choice in Planning Processes for New High-Voltage Installations” in the 2017/2018 fiscal year. The chosen system is based on the tried- and-tested route selection guidelines for transport projects. In the route selection procedure, the following objectives are among those that must be ensured in a transparent, reasonable and well-received process: standardised route selection procedure framework, early consideration of later approval procedures, system decision (overhead line/underground cable) based on previously defined parameters, determination of the best possible route from a broad interdisciplinary perspective according to basic defined principles, and a high level of acceptance for the proposed solution.

Adoption of the guidelines is voluntary in principle, but is recommended and supported by the State of Upper Austria. The work of planning and responsibility for the project at hand remain with the relevant grid or network operator.

Netz OÖ will be applying the route selection guidelines’ methodology for the first time in the Rohrbach – Bad Leonfelden 110 kV transmission line project. A discussion with a robust exchange of opinions about the possible routes’ pros and cons was conducted with all interested stakeholders. In this context, during the fifth regional conference in late June 2019, a final evaluation was released for the individual overhead line and cable corridors, with an overhead line corridor (8B Nord 2) put forward as the best option. The grid operators are now responsible for beginning to formulate detailed plans, working closely together with the landowners and local authorities in a joint project with LINZ NETZ GmbH.

For basic information about the route selection guidelines and the ongoing process, see the State of Upper Austria’s website.

Online communication

In view of the introduction and continuing development of “new media”, Energie AG is taking advantage of these opportunities to communicate online. The various online portals are our main sources of information: the website www.energieag.at, the press portals news.energieag.at and news.netzooe.at, the project homepage for children and young people www.wir-denken-an-morgen.at, Energie AG’s various blogs (www.energieag.at/blog and hochspannungsblog.at), the Facebook page „Energie AG – We care about tomorrow“ and Energie AG’s specific product websites.

Energie AG offers functional self-service portals (especially in areas of mass customer demand) to meet customer needs and optimise customer service processes. These enable customers to independently carry out a number of tasks and fulfil requests relating to supply contracts with Energie AG at any time of day.