Having a say on the expansion of the grid

Since the beginning of 2015, Germany has been hosting a public dialogue on the electricity grid. For the residents of local communities, to be able to be involved in the energy transition in this way is welcome and important. Find out below about the success story of the first five years.

Public dialogue on the electricity grid© Bürgerdialog Stromnetz [Public dialogue on the electricity grid]

The aim of the public dialogue on the electricity grid is to create the opportunity for an honest and transparent exchange on electricity grid expansion to take place. Serving as a neutral and independent contact points, the local public dialogue teams are on hand for local residents who want to discuss the issues at hand. They provide information about many different topics, for example on nature and soil conservation or the different ways that members of the public can get involved. This kind of public dialogue is very important: although the energy transition in Germany enjoys a great deal of public support, for many, things become more complicated as soon as they become affected by it personally. 'We are here for the people and want to listen, inform and explain,' says the public dialogue's project manager, Julia Spönemann.

Dialogue and information throughout Germany

Over the past five years, public dialogue staff have provided information on the complex interrelationships between the expansion of the electricity grid and the energy transition on 445 occasions – whether at weekly markets, in front of town halls or in local pedestrian areas. They also drew residents' attention to important dates and information events taking place the local region. In addition, the public dialogue on the electricity grid has co-organised 710 events, hosted 111 regional grid meetings and held 81 evening events for local residents throughout Germany.

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Mr Peter Altmaier, also answered questions for the public dialogue initiative during his trips around Germany to engage with grid expansion issues. 'The large-scale electricity highways will carry the lifeblood of the energy transition. To make this happen, we need everyone to support us – the federation, the Länder and the municipalities. And, crucially, our citizens living close by,' said Minister Altmaier on the occasion of his third such trip on which he visited Hesse in February 2019.

Since the launch of the public dialogue at the start of 2015, ten citizens' bureaus have been answering and recording all of the questions and opinions of residents in the different regions of Germany. Many people who do not have such a citizens' bureau in the vicinity have since received visits from a mobile version of the same, known as the 'Dialogmobil'. After all, the most important task of the public dialogue on the electricity grid is to be in those places where people are affected by grid expansion. Since 2015, the mobile citizens' bureau has been on the road visiting more than 472 different places where there have been new developments in grid expansion or where an additional need for discussion and information has arisen.

The public dialogue is continuing

Even after five years of public dialogue, not all questions have been answered of course, and new topics are also coming to the fore. The good news is that the public dialogue is continuing and, from 2020, will be extended. Members of all communities around the country will continue to have a regional contact person, and new types of events will be hosted to engage with members of public on an level. The online services of the public dialogue on the electricity grid will also be further extended. The information website www.bürgerdialog-stromnetz.de already provides clear and easy-to-understand information on overarching issues relating to grid expansion as well as advertising the events being hosted as part of the initiative. The online citizens' bureau is on hand to be contacted with both questions and suggestions. In the future, members of all local communities throughout the whole country should be able to get into contact with the public dialogue via social media. After all, the rapid expansion of the grid is nothing less than the very backbone of the energy transition.