The Elia LIFE+ project
It is possible to reconcile the transmission of electricity with biodiversity. Our European LIFE+ project proves it!
Summary of the project
For safety reasons, to prevent a fall or a short circuit, no trees are allowed to grow in the vicinity of high-voltage lines. Until recently, our maintenance policy for overhead lines entailed razing any vegetation within a corridor of roughly 50 metres beneath them. This policy is both expensive for Elia and does not exactly encourage biodiversity.
LIFE+ is a 5-year European project conducted by Elia to 'green' 150 km of forest corridors. Instead of ploughing up all vegetation with a rotary cutter every 5 to 8 years, Elia is restoring the land beneath these power lines, transforming it into more stable natural environments (like peatlands, forest edge shrubs, grazed pasture land, etc.) which will be easier and less costly to maintain and far better for biodiversity.
In summer 2013, the LIFE+ team simultaneously started work at several sites in the field, digging ponds, planting forest edge shrubs and so on. To find out more, watch the interview with LIFE+ project coordinator Gérard Jadoul.
Other communication campaigns aim to raise various target groups' awareness of the importance of taking biodiversity into account when managing vegetation. Training modules have been set up, leaflets have been published, and on the ground information panels will be set up and viewing platforms built. The project is a tremendous opportunity to showcase all the positive actions Elia is taking.
Setting an example for Europe
One of the aims of the project is to set an example for all other European transmission system operators (TSOs) and establish the first ecological network of its kind along the EU's 300,000 km of power lines.
Contact has already been made with the TSOs in 14 EU Member States that have shown the greatest interest in the project and its implementation in their own country. And interest is mounting all the time.
A 'guide to best practices' that will describe various ways of managing the aforementioned green corridors and highlight their financial benefits will be drawn up as part of the project. This 'vade mecum' will be used within Elia and distributed to the other European TSOs, among other ways via international associations like the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and the International Council on Large Electronic Systems (CIGRE).
RTE, which manages the French power grid, is also one of the project partners and will assess the landscaping work done on the ground at 8 different sites (in the Aquitaine and Hautes-Alpes regions, Brittany, etc.). These sites were chosen not only because they are representative of the landscapes within RTE's territory, but also for their biogeographic diversity.
Financing and partners
The total cost of the project will be €2.55 million and Elia receives an EU subsidy of €1.166 million via the LIFE+ programme plus a grant of €815,000 from the Walloon Region's Directorate-General for Natural Resources and the Environment (DGO3).
Elia's financial contribution to the project will total €600,000, while RTE will inject €110,000. Two non-profit organisations (Solon and CARAH) run the project, working constantly in conjunction with Elia. Accordingly, LIFE+ involves public and private sector partners as well as associations.
To follow the progress made with the project, see the News section on the official website.
Pictures and videos
Planting of conservatory orchards
Interview Violaine Fichefet, Walloon Natural and Agricultural Environmental Studies Department (DEMNA)
Interview Clément Rebuffat, Walloon Department of Nature and Forests (DNF)
Photo gallery: click on the pictures below to open a preview