Honest and constructive stakeholder dialogue is a key element in ensuring the success of the energy transition. In particular, the expansion of renewable energies, the modernisation of the portfolio of conventional power stations and the grids demand early integration of the local residents and communities impacted by these projects. Dialogue is the only way of achieving acceptance in the public domain for the construction measures required. A spin-off comes from engaging in continuous dialogue as this engenders support for our core business in relation to our facilities, sales activities and the relationship with suppliers. Our aim over the long term is also to strengthen trust in our companies in this way and to enhance our acceptance within the local community. We regard this as an important platform for the success of our company.
Dialogue with the Executive Board
We believe it is important to have a dialogue between our stakeholders and RWE’s decision-makers. Since our Chief Executive Officer, Peter Terium, took up his post, he has been holding a series of regular discussions with stakeholders from the community associated with the company, including major environmental conservation groups. These discussions are similar to those held by colleagues in the Management Boards of RWE AG and the operating companies.
The discussions help both sides to understand the different positions and highlight common ground. This may lead to future cooperative projects in different forms (see below). We regularly issue invitations to events like RWE Talk in Berlin and formats like this offer a platform that allows Executive Managers and Board Members of RWE to engage in regular debates on important current affairs and other topics with politicians, representatives from other companies, journalists, as well as representatives of unions and a range of different interest groups. The focus is on engaging in a lively debate and exchange of ideas.
Acceptance by local residents is a critical factor for the success of the energy transition. RWE commissioned an Acceptance Study with the aim of better understanding the conditions and opportunities to facilitate an increased level of acceptance. Citizens are in favour of the energy transition. However, many people believe that they are either not informed or that they have not been informed at a sufficiently early stage. The study shows that honest dialogue at an early stage between companies and the community increases acceptance for projects. There is a demand for companies like RWE to communicate the specifics of projects in a comprehensible way and to adopt an open approach to the attitudes espoused by local people and the proposals they put forward.
At regional level, RWE Deutschland has been holding an ‘Energiestammtisch’ (Energy Round Table) since 2011. This format gives local residents a forum for finding out about the latest energy issues. They can also put forward suggestions or concerns about specific projects related to the energy transition.
Another successful initiative at regional level is the ‘Nachbarschaftsforum’ (Neighbourhood Forum) set up by RWE in Niederaußem near Cologne in the Rhineland industrial area. Neighbours, associations and other stakeholders can use this forum to engage in discussion with RWE about issues related to electricity generation and power stations. RWE also engages in regular dialogue in the Rhineland industrial area with politicians in the local community including mayors, district administrators and members of the ‘Landtag’ (regional parliament) across the political spectrum in order to facilitate mutual exchange of views about current developments and decisions. Regular so-called ‘power station talks’ are held at different locations with the same objective.
One focus in the United Kingdom is on stakeholder dialogue with customers and consumer protection organisations. These are represented in the Customer Stakeholder Council which met twice to discuss current issues in 2012 (Pricing and Marketplace).
When RWE acquired Essent, it reached an agreement with the existing owner to set up the “Essent Sustainable Development Foundation” (ESDF). The aim of this foundation is support the sustainable development of Essent after the takeover by RWE. The representatives of the local authorities as former owners of Essent and the Executive Board discuss the situation on the energy market, political developments, development at Essent and new initiatives to create a sustainable economy. The Advisory Council met twice in 2012.
Essent has set up a Corporate Responsibility Council comprising five independent experts from politics, academia, business, consumer representatives and environmental protection. The council advises the Executive Board on sustainability issues. In 2012, the Corporate Responsibility Council discussed the use of biomass for generation of electricity and heat, and the cooperation with social organisations directed towards ensuring mutual benefit.
Essent continues to participate in the ‘Dutch Coal Dialogue’, where issues relating to the import of coal from non-European countries are discussed (Supply Chain).
Central and Eastern Europe
We also engage in dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe. We have been talking to various stakeholders in Hungary for a very long time – with customers (Pricing and Marketplace), employees and also with other community groups. We are continuing to work together with students at university involving a debate about issues related to the energy industry and highlighting career perspectives in the sector.
We were able to announce the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between RWE and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the protection of species diversity at the World Economic Forum held in Davos during January 2013. The objective of the agreement is to help us to improve our assessment of the impact our actions have on the ecosystem, particularly when undertaking new projects. Initiatives connected with offshore wind farms in the North Sea are one example of the target projects. The joint venture is scheduled to run for three years.
We are working closely together with all the affected stakeholders within the framework of our supplier relationships in order to develop suitable standards and assessment criteria with particular emphasis on imported hard coal and biomass (Supply Chain).