Discourse on public dialogue: the difference between informal and formal public participation
As the project developer, 50Hertz ensures informal public participation of its own volition. In order to avoid confusion with formal public participation in the scope of the approval procedure, 50Hertz and the other transmission system operators often use the term "public dialogue". Public dialogue is intended to support the formal procedure.
50Hertz therefore takes many actions to inform citizens when the planning documents will be made publicly available, for instance on the website of the line project. A large number of public meetings also took place at 50Hertz's initiative to inform citizens and discuss the planning stage. 50Hertz is also willing to present the planning in detail if invited to do so by municipalities or action groups.
Public dialogue builds on 50Hertz's own experiences, not on legal stipulations. This distinction is important to 50Hertz as a project developer's public dialogue ends where formal public participation begins. The state and federal authorities see to it that their legal procedure takes place correctly. As such, both ways to involve citizens, namely the public participation procedure and the public dialogue, have their own strong points: the public participation procedure is part of the constitutional, formally enforceable course of the procedure, whereas the public dialogue can address unanswered questions and information from citizens in a flexible manner.
For the public dialogue measures, 50Hertz consults a large number of discussion partners. It is imperative to take into account as many interests as possible within this approach. The objective is to develop good practices for public dialogue. If the public dialogue would not ensure a general social understanding of important and justified measures, it would be much more difficult for 50Hertz to take into account citizens' interests during project planning.
50Hertz owes a large group of people and institutes for the public dialogue approach it applies today, which they helped create through discussion and advice. Some of these are expressly mentioned here:
- The Renewables Grid Initiative - an initiative by European environmental associations and European system operators that provides an international incentive to search for best practices.
- The three other German transmission system operators Amprion, TenneT and Transnet BW, who are willing to contribute to the exchange on best practices.
- Deutsche Umwelthilfe with their Forum for the Integration of Renewable Energy, which created an important national platform for an intensive exchange between companies, authorities, environmental organisations and action groups through its work on Plan N.
- The Ministry for Economic and European Affairs of Brandenburg, with which 50Hertz agreed on general principles for public dialogue in August 2013: an important step towards greater transparency and procedural certainty in the public dialogue.
- Municipal umbrella organisations: the Association of German Cities, the German Association of Federated States, the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, who are willing to have a constructive dialogue on a better involvement of the municipal administrations in the public dialogue.
- The Bertelsmann Stiftung, of which the great expertise in matters of public participation continues to provide impulses for the improvement of existing measures.
It is worth looking up additional information on public participation and public dialogue provided by these institutions and companies.