Workshop The highvoltage network as an opportunity for nature conservation

How to improve the integration of a high-voltage network in its environment? Could the easement strips for high-voltage power lines encourage preservation or restoration of natural habitats and its connectivity? If so, under which conditions? Within the French Electricity Transmission Network – RTE –, the Environmental Research and development Program was launched to increase knowledge and know-how on these issues.

Linear infrastructure operators are facing similar challenges. One of them is to take biodiversity into account in its field of activity, from existing infrastructures to new projects. This shared issue, and the parallels between the solutions put forward to deal with it, brought to light the advantages of a joint work within the Linear Infrastructure and Biodiversity Club (CILB).

The CILB and the French Committee of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) organized in 2014 the seminar "Infrastructure corridors, ecological connectivity?”. This event was a call to the stakeholders of ecology and land management on a complex and controversial issue in order to confirm, contradict or specify the potential value for ecological connectivity of the verges along the linear transport infrastructures.

Concluding this common work, the IUCN French Committee recommended linear infrastructure operators to enhance:

governance and involvement of stakeholders;

  • infrastructures design;
  • restoration of natural areas;
  • biodiversity in the management of existing infrastructure;
  • knowledge.

The work carried out through the RTE Environmental Research and development Program with researcher, naturalists and nature management experts follows these guidelines. Two Action research programs that will help RTE to fit into IUCN’s recommendations will be presented:

  • contribution to the Chair of Landscape and Energy led by the National School of Landscape Architecture. It was within this framework that a studio - led until March 2016, has proposed landscape recommendations to manage planning and biodiversity of easements of power lines in two Paris area places;
  • contribution to the LIFE Elia-RTE Project that aims to create green corridors under overhead power lines in wooded areas in Belgium and France thanks to various innovative actions.

Those achievements show that it is now possible to work together along the grid - in order to preserve or restore actual biodiversity that could shrink if we do not carry on an appropriate management.