- Fostering biodiversity underneath power lines
- Protecting pollinating birds and insects
- Thinking ahead to protect marine biodiversity
- Since 2010, RTE has been involved in an ambitious initiative aimed at eradicating chemical herbicides. The company has decided to step up its efforts to eliminate the use of phytosanitary substances for maintaining its industrial and tertiary sites. Since
RTE’s commitment to the protection of terrestrial and marine biodiversity
In July 2018, as part of the act4nature initiative, RTE ramped up its commitment by signing, alongside 64 other large French companies, ten mutual commitments supporting biodiversity.
In December 2019, RTE joined Entreprises engagées pour la nature – act4nature France (Businesses for nature) and submitted its action plan supporting biodiversity, spanning the period of 2020 to 2024. The actions set out in this plan follow on from RTE’s previous commitments and corroborate its desire to act in favour of protecting natural environments, biodiversity and landscapes.
With 90% of its facilities surrounded by nature, RTE is keen to blend its structures and activities into the environment. RTE takes account of environmental issues in each of its decisions and takes measures to protect and restore biodiversity. As an example, the electricity grid provides the opportunity to develop green corridors underneath power lines and to create reservoirs of biodiversity on industrial and tertiary sites.
Fostering biodiversity underneath power lines
For the past several years, RTE has been working hard to convert the land occupied by its power lines into environmental corridors, 20% of these lines being located in forested areas. Working in conjunction with green space administrators and biodiversity defenders, RTE had converted close to a total of 1 200 hectares by the end of 2019. It is aiming for 2 300 hectares of biodiversity-friendly land by the end of 202 4. The planting of tiered forest edges, the establishment of grazing or mowing spaces, the restoration of open spaces (heaths, peat bogs), the laying out of spaces for wildlife and the use of selective cutting techniques are just some of the innovative methods that can be used to protect certain endangered species (e.g. the alcon blue in the Basque country, together with Aquitaine’s centre for the conservation of natural spaces).
This alternative approach to managing vegetation underneath power lines was trialled in conjunction with RTE’s Belgian counterpart ELIA, as part of a European programme LIFE (2011-2017), under 150 kilometres of lines in Wallonia and on seven sites in France . After a six-year period, it was found that these methods often helped with the transition from “ordinary” biodiversity to “remarkable” biodiversity. Thanks to these methods, domestic and wild animals can enjoy access to rich and diversified vegetation. In addition to all these advantages, this approach reduces maintenance costs by maintaining security of supply and forging long-lasting local partnerships.
Since 2018, RTE has been extending these spaces through the BELIVE project (“Biodiversity underneath power lines”), covering 200 hectares in three regions:
- North East: RTE is working closely together with the Ardennes regional nature park, recognised by the State as a leading site for biodiversity;
- Mediterranean and Western France: RTE intends to combine the construction of smart grids and the smart management of vegetation through self-regulation.
RTE aims to roll out its BELIVE project across the whole country, with 30 hectares of space converted in each of the company’s four regional entities, starting in 2021.
Protecting pollinating birds and insects
Keen to improve the cohabitation of its infrastructures with birdlife, RTE is fitting its potentially dangerous power lines with collision-proof and electrocution-proof systems: 5.5% of its grid is equipped with beacons that are visible to birds, with close to 20% of these lines running through highly protected areas where special measures are being taken to protect birdlife. Around 12 600 electrocution-proof systems have been installed on pylons. Furthermore, 72 stork nesting platforms have been installed, as well as 11 facilities for protecting osprey nests. RTE is working on these programmes in conjunction with the League for the Protection of Birdlife (LPO). Taking things further, RTE is also testing automated bird detection systems (radars, cameras) as part of the EIDER research project.
Since 2016, RTE has also been actively committed to the protection of pollinating insects as part of a national action plan called “France, a country of pollinators”. The company has also taken part in pilot projects led by the Hommes et Territoires association on large tracts of farmland. If the space around the base of a pylon is properly laid out, it can provide a source of food and shelter for small animals and for numerous pollinating insects. Different blends of seeds for restoring field borders and pylon bases by sowing wild flowers have also been trialled in order to maintain environmental continuity, using Japanese garden steps, for fauna and flora in intensive farming areas. Additionally, RTE is currently developing an insect hotel prototype, to be installed under warning posts indicating the presence of buried electrical cables. Last but not least, a number of amenities have been installed to preserve pollinating insects on mainly urban tertiary sites, using nectar and pollen plants with a special effort being made to source these locally.
Thinking ahead to protect marine biodiversity
In the very near future, RTE will be connecting offshore windfarms by running submarine electrical cables and by building and operating offshore electrical platforms, starting with the Dunkerque offshore windfarm. In order to successfully complete these projects whilst protecting the environment, RTE has started work on a number of R&D projects in order to assess and mitigate their potential effects on ecosystems. For each stage of these structures’ lifecycle (construction, operation, maintenance, dismantling), the challenge is to come up with solutions that avoid or mitigate their effects on flora and fauna on the seabed. This research is being conducted in conjunction with numerous entities including TBM environnement, Ifremer, the CNRS, France Energies Marines (France’s leading national institute for research into renewable marine energy sources) and the University of Western Brittany.
In 2019, RTE and CEEBIOS began work on BIOMIM – Lignes de Vie Marine, an innovative research project using the principles of biomimetics, a first in the area of offshore wind energy. The project uses nature to come up with solutions that use few recyclable resources and where possible, that can regenerate natural marine ecosystems. This would require submarine electrical cables to have natural anti-fouling properties that would prevent living organisms from attaching themselves and weighing the cables down. Sharkskin is an example of such an innovation as it is covered in tooth-like scales.
Eradicating chemical herbicides from our industrial and tertiary sites
Since 2010, RTE has been involved in an ambitious initiative aimed at eradicating chemical herbicides. The company has decided to step up its efforts to eliminate the use of phytosanitary substances for maintaining its industrial and tertiary sites. Since 2018, this is already the case on all tertiary sites, as well as on new substations since 2019. Target: 65% chemical herbicide-free substations by 2022, with the roll-out of alternative solutions for managing and maintaining vegetation (choice of specific plants, eco-grazing, mineral mulch, etc.)