Stakeholder Engagement

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While laws and institutional frameworks vary from one power system to another, a successful renewable energy zone (REZ) process depends on active stakeholder engagement and the flow of information between stakeholders and decision makers.

The authority to plan for and approve the power sector investment decisions of the REZ process rests with the decision makers. However, stakeholder involvement is also critical to the REZ process. Although stakeholders do not make legally binding decisions, they have important interests in the power system and will ultimately be affected by those decisions. In many cases, stakeholders have technical information and expertise that can enhance decisions. The table below lists typical decision makers and stakeholders for the REZ process.

Table. Example REZ process decision makers and stakeholders

Decision makersStakeholders
Energy ministry or agency officials Renewable energy project developers
Environment ministry and other relevant ministry officials      Electric utilities
Regulators Environment, natural resource, and land-use authorities
Power system planners Economic and social development authorities
Transmission system operators Environment, wildlife, social , and other interest groups
Non-governmental organizations
Local residents and business owners

Importance of stakeholder engagement

Effectively involving stakeholders in power sector planning activities (such as the REZ process) drives the best possible outcome. Power sector planning decisions are complex. They cannot be solved by a single government agency, institution, or interest group. Even if they could be, failing to involve all affected parties in project planning will surely lead to a less successful project. By engaging various stakeholders, any power-sector project will benefit from greater communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

Stakeholders can have a direct effect on the successful outcome of power-sector projects when proactively engaged via transparent and regular communications. Stakeholders have experience, advice, concerns, and valuable input that should be considered. Addressing any stakeholder concerns early in the process can help to avoid obstacles and save valuable time and money.  Effective engagement incorporates this stakeholder feedback (both positive and negative) to foster ownership and legitimize decisions while simultaneously tailoring projects to specific power sector contexts—enhancing the likelihood of success (Franke, Volker and Amanda Guidero 2012; USAID 2016). .

Maintaining strong relationships with stakeholders can help gain favor for projects, safeguard potential investments, and lay the groundwork for future projects. Stakeholder engagement can also help build local technical capacity—further contributing to  long-term success 

Successful stakeholder engagement

Successful stakeholder engagement requires the active participation of  relevant government agencies, institutions, civil society groups, and others. Successful stakeholder engagement includes the following steps.

Step 1. Stakeholder identification

This step identifies relevant stakeholders and the right balance of different stakeholders to include. This is ideally done at the start of the  project to ensure stakeholders are engaged throughout the process. It is important to identify all stakeholders that may affect or be affected by the project. Ask the following three questions to help identify stakeholders (Heagney 2016):

1. Who may benefit from the project?

2. Who may contribute to the project?

3. Who may be impacted by the project?

Identifying and engaging a local project “champion” to lead other stakeholders and facilitate discussions can significantly improve stakeholder engagement. The “champion” should be a stakeholder with significant technical knowledge and influence in the project, engaging other stakeholders to complete their work. It is helpful to assign the “champion” to a lead or chairperson role in the stakeholder group.

Step 2. Stakeholder recruitment

This step consists of recruiting an appropriately sized group of stakeholders. A group that is too small could overlook important concerns, while too large of a group could be pulled in too many directions, ultimately becoming ineffective. For any given project, there are likely many stakeholders to involve. While developing strong relationships with all stakeholders would be ideal, effective stakeholder management prioritizes those who may have the greatest influence on a project. This includes those who may have adverse opinions about the project as they may have the most significant on the impact on the outcome.

Often a formal invitation (in the form of a letter or other communication) for stakeholders is required in this step. The invitation should clearly describe the purpose of the project, the desired outcomes of the project, and the stakeholders’ role (such as a terms of reference).

Step 3. Stakeholder engagement

Stakeholders may be engaged throughout the project to:

  • Gather and share relevant information and data

  • Consult on key questions

  • Provide feedback on potential obstacles

  • Offer insight on context-appropriate approaches

  • Disseminate findings

When engaging stakeholders, it is vital to maintain open and transparent communication for cultivating a sense of inclusion and addressing any new concerns as they arise. Addressing stakeholder input may require revisions to the project plan.In turn, this may require flexibility from those  involved, but ultimately, it will improve project outcomes.

Also, conducting workshops and hosting group calls are often effective approaches to engage various stakeholders and inform project decisions.

Step 4. Stakeholder retention

It is important to build on relationships to sustain engagement throughout the project and after its completion. The continued engagement of stakeholders  will help to develop long-term appreciation for the project and lay the foundation for successful future related projects.

Engaging stakeholders in the REZ process

The figure below proposes an organizational structure for an effective, stakeholder-inclusive REZ process. This begins with the Lead Entity—the decision maker that launches and oversees the planning activity and ensures its completion. A technical advisory committee (TAC) empowered by the Lead Entity guides and reviews the REZ process work. The working groups conduct the technical and analytical work of the REZ process.

The TAC may include representatives of the Lead Entity, the technical working groups, other government agencies, stakeholders, and organizations that can support the process such as transmission system operators. The working groups deliver their work to the TAC for review and discussion. The TAC may also mediate any differing views with the working groups throughout the process.

General REZ structure for REZ Process Organization page guidebook

Figure. General REZ transmission planning process organizational structure

Philippines Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to Enable Renewable Energy Integration and Installation Targets

The Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 of the Philippines established policy objectives aimed at harnessing the country’s abundant domestic renewable energy resources. To plan for this power sector shift, the Philippines Department of Energy launched a grid integration study to analyze the feasibility of higher levels of variable renewable energy electricity generation on the country’s grid (Philippines Department of Energy 2015). The study addressed grid reliability concerns, assessed options to cost-effectively improve power system flexibility and balance, and helped set new renewable energy targets.

To ensure the technical validity and relevance of the study, the Philippines Department of Energy ensured stakeholder engagement through the formation of a TAC, which was composed of a diverse set of power sector stakeholders. The TAC helped ensure the widespread acceptance of the study in the Philippines energy sector by:

1. Advising on the development, review, and validation of the study
2. Linking the study outcomes with applicable policy and regulatory processes
3. Endorsing the technical rigor of the entire study
4. Aiding in the interpretation of modeling and analysis results
5. Assisting in setting the study parameters
6. Reviewing the methods, data sources, assumptions and providing guidance as necessary.

The Electric Power Industry Management Bureau of the Philippines Department of Energy chaired the TAC, which included representatives of the agencies listed below. Beyond the core group of stakeholders listed, relevant government agencies and interested parties (such as the private sector and RE developers) were invited to to observe and advise at TAC meetings. To ensure autonomy the TAC was independent from, but closely coordinated with, a modeling working group−responsible for technical modeling and analysis.

Transmission system operator: National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP)
Wholesale electricity spot market operator: Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC)
Transmission system owner: National Transmission Corporation (TRANSCO)
Private sector and renewable energy developers: Philippine Independent Power Producer Association (PIPPA); Philippine Electric Plant Owners Association (PEPOA); Philippe Solar Power Alliance (PSPA); and Wind Energy Developers Association of the Philippines (WEDAP)
Electric cooperatives: Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA)
Researchers and students: University of the Philippines National Engineering Center (UP-NEC)

For more details on the study, see Greening the Grid: Solar and Wind Grid Integration Study for the Luzon-Visayas System of the Philippines from Barrows et al. (2018).

Reading list and case studies

Principles for Technical Review Committee (TRC) Involvement in Studies of Wind Integration into Electric Power Systems

Energy Systems Integration Group and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2011

A technical review committee (TRC) is an essential piece of a transparent, industry-grounded power sector planning study. This report on TRC involvement in wind integration studies functions as an outline for an agreement between a TRC and a project developer. It details the TRC’s role in a wind integration study. It also outlines best practices on both sides, such as transparency, accuracy, and mutual support of the public good. These best practices can be adapted to other power sector planning activities such as the REZ transmission planning process, which is also a stakeholder-driven planning process.

Integrating Variable Renewable Energy in Electric Power Markets: Best Practices from International Experience, Summary for Policymakers

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2012

This report  includes useful case studies and analyses from efforts to lead public engagement in the renewable energy transition. Best practices in public engagement, detailed in the report, include increasing public access to regulatory proceedings, ensuring transparency in planning, and setting clear, shared objectives. Brief case studies in the report include international experience from Texas, Germany, Denmark, and California. In the case of the U.S. state of Texas, extensive opportunities for public feedback were critical in obtaining consent to move forward with the development of transmission lines for the state’s Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) Initiative. In Denmark, aesthetic opposition to transmission lines lead to plans to run the countries transmission grid underground.

Public Participation and Transparency in Power Grid Planning: Recommendations from the BESTGRID Project - Handbook Part 1

Germanwatch in support of BESTGRID, 2015

The European grid requires coordination at multiple policy levels; coordination between local, national and supra-national stakeholders is essential ensure that decisions are mutually supported. Partners of the European BESTGRID project, which includes transmission system operators from Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany have closely cooperated with national and regional non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders–including customers, utilities, countries, and TSOs. This report outlines best-practice approaches to proactive and transparent transmission system planning for participants and outlines stakeholder considerations involved in moving towards a trans-European grid. The best practices can be considered in other international transmission planning contexts such as countries or regions undertaking a REZ transmission planning process.

California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) - 2010 Award Winner - State Leadership in Clean Energy - Case Study

Clean Energy States Alliance, 2010

The Stakeholder Steering Committee of the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) was an innovative approach to stakeholder-driven transmission planning in the U.S. State of California and has served as a model for planning activities around the world. The RETI approach was the first organization to convene public-owned utilities, investor-owned utilities, and third-party developers with the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) into a statewide transmission planning process together with representatives of environmental, developer, ratepayer, regulatory, tribal, and other interests. Together, this steering committee was responsible for conceptualizing collaborative efforts to meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) such as identifying Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) in California. Though RETI did not have administrative or legal standing, its value was in its ability to influence formal processes and procedures related to renewable energy infrastructure planning and permitting. An analysis from the California Transmission Planning Group found that transmission projects identified under RETI could deliver 22-24% of renewables by 2020 and a CAISO analysis estimates that RETI transmission projects in process may be sufficient to accomplish delivery of 33% renewables in California by 2020. Readers can view RETI’s proceedings and the structure of the Stakeholder Steering Committee Group here.

Environmental and Land Use Information to Support the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) 2.0 Process

California Energy Commission, 2016

Following initial RETI proceedings in 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission convened RETI 2.0 in 2015, and brought together stakeholders to discuss how to maximize the initiative’s impact with a vision for a broader range of actor involvement and a clearer mandate. RETI 2.0 seeks to better identify the constraints and opportunities for new transmission to access and integrate new renewable energy resources and help meet California’s renewable energy goals. This report  contains information from the meetings that initially framed out RETI 2.0. The section on “County Outreach Processes and Land-Use Information” is particularly informative as to how RETI 2.0 seeks to better address a diverse group of land users across several political jurisdictions in a power sector planning activity.

Renewable Energy and Non-Market Enterprise: Identifying Stakeholders and Engaging Stakeholders

Pennsylvania State University, 2018

The identification and engagement of stakeholders is a crucial step in any stakeholder-driven energy planning activity. There are many approaches to this key step of mapping and categorizing stakeholder types, relationships, and valuations of planning decisions. These approaches are often specific to the context and scope of the planning activity; however, this graduate-level course lesson plan provides a general approach to stakeholder analysis and stakeholder management for renewable energy projects. It features an example stakeholder identification matrix to help users identify and map-out the overlapping and competing interests of various stakeholders. Also, it shows an example stakeholder engagement matrix to help users identify how, when and to what degree stakeholders may need to be engaged in the process.

Regulatory and Policy Examples

Creating a Technical Advisory Committee and Modeling Working Group to Enable Variable Renewable Energy Integration and Installation Targets

Philippines Department of Energy, 2015

A technical advisory committee (TAC) is a key tool for engaging stakeholders and aligning interests in power system planning activities. This department circular from the Philippines Department of Energy establishes the composition and responsibilities of a (TAC)−created to guide and review activities conducted for a renewable energy grid-integration study in the Philippines, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development. The diverse makeup of the Technical Advisory Committee includes the, transmission system operator, transmission system owner, independent power producers, power plant owners, renewable energy developers, rural electric cooperatives, universities, and other stakeholders. This document It formalizes a stakeholder-involved planning process, providing a template for proactive, stakeholder-engaged transmission planning approaches such as the REZ process.

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